OAKLAND PARK, FLA. (WSVN) - Several people, including children, had to be transported to the hospital after a partial ceiling collapse at a middle school in Oakland Park.
Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue crews responded to the scene at Rickards Middle School, Friday morning.
According to the school district, the collapse affected the school’s media center.
“Before 10 o’clock this morning, the principal of Rickards Middle was in his office when he heard a noise, which was followed by a subsequent noise,” said Keyla Concepcion with Broward County Public Schools. “When he went out to investigate and see where the noise was coming from, that’s where he realized that the media center, which is currently under construction, the roof collapsed. Fortunately, no student or faculty members were inside the media center. Everyone has been evacuated to Northeast High School next door.”
“The roof and the joists had collapsed onto the media floor,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Chief Stephen Krivjanik said. “There was a major water leak going on in there.”
There were 184 students and 55 faculty members in the building at the time, but they all made it out safely. There was also a construction crew on the campus at the time of the collapse.
According to fire rescue crews, about a dozen people complained of minor ailments such as headaches, nausea and anxiety and were transported to Holy Cross Hospital and Broward Health Medical Center.
Jeff Olibrice twisted his ankle during the incident.
“I’m all right, thank God,” he said. “I was going to use the restroom, and then that’s when I was just going outside, and then I heard something big. I thought they were just fixing something, but I saw everybody running, and the teacher told me to run so I just ran. Then I twisted my ankle.”
“Right now there are various minor complaints from two adults and seven children as far as headaches and nausea,” said Krivjanik.
“We were crawling under all the debris stuff,” said Anya, a student at the school. “It got all in our hair and everything when we got up there. I scraped my knee on the metal piece ’cause everything fell. There was metal everywhere.”
“It was just a loud, ‘BOOM’ then all the power went out all the way down the hallway,” said student Sadel Howard. “All the lights just shut off all the way down the hallway. It was scary. I’m glad to be OK. I’m glad to say I made it out fine.”
“They were doing construction in the media center, and I think they were breaking down walls,” said student Matthew Moron. “We heard one, ‘BOOM’ and like the ceiling was shaking. We heard a second one, the teacher told us to go to the far left of the classroom ’cause the far right was where the media center was. Then the third one, the lights cut out, and then the whole ceiling just fell.”
“My teacher, when she saw teachers and students running out, she just told us, ‘Put down everything and run,'” Howard said.
Krivjanik said they sent dogs inside and used a drone to ensure no one was trapped in the rubble.
“Luckily, through our search and our primaries and the great attentiveness of the school principal and their staff, they were able to evacuate everybody, get all the construction people out, so everyone was accounted for, but just to be sure, we always do routinely another secondary search, we also brought a dog in to search the entire school to make sure no one was in there and also a drone to check to make sure there was no one on the roof that maybe got hurt during the collapse,” Krivjanik said.
He said further, “Once that’s all been complete, which it has been complete, we can absolutely confirm that there were no injuries inside the school, no one trapped. Everyone got evacuated correctly and is accounted for.”
7News spoke with some parents who went to pick up their children.
“My son called me and said that the roof had collapsed at the school, and he was scared, so he said he had to crawl through some hole to get to the roof to be able to leave the school, so I’m not sure what’s going on,” one parent said. “I panicked. I left the house right away with no purse, no nothing. I’m just hoping that everything’s OK.”
Cellphone footage showed the roof completely caved in. Concrete, electrical wires, pipes and air conditioning ducts were seen thrown down in a pile on the media center’s floor.
Students and staff were immediately evacuated to Northeast High School as a precaution.
“The most important thing is obviously the safety of the students and our faculty, and we’re just very thankful that none of them were injured, that no one was inside that media center at the time of the incident, and now it’ll be up to the city and facility personnel to come out and inspect the rest of the structure to determine safety,” said Concepcion.
Fortunately, e-learning is already in place, so administrators may decide to continue e-learning into next week or until they come up with a plan for students who opted for in-person learning.
The district said they are investigating the cause of the collapse.
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