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12 Killed During Chicago Porch Collapse

June 29, 2003

A wooden third-floor porch packed with dozens of friends in their early 20s collapsed Sunday, killing 12 people as it pancaked onto porches below. As many as 45 others were injured in the fall, some critically, authorities said.

Police said as many as 50 people may have been standing or dancing on the porch when it gave way, and there may have been beer kegs there, as well.

Most of the dead appeared to have been crushed on the porches below, said Larry Langford, spokesman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

“There was chaos,” said Chicago Fire Commissioner James Joyce. “There were people screaming and crying in the alley.”

Eleven people were dead at the scene, and 12th was dead on arrival at a hospital, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed. Emergency Management Director Cortez Trotter said 45 people were injured when the porch, attached to the back of an apartment building in affluent Lincoln Park, collapsed just after midnight.

Most of the people at the party were friends in their early 20s, many of them graduates of New Trier High School in Chicago’s northern suburbs, said Fina Cannon. She had been in the apartment’s kitchen, looking out at the porch when it gave way.

“All of a sudden I saw all these heads going down,” Cannon said. “The floor just dropped out from underneath them. They all went down in unison.”

A lot of people were on the third-floor porch at the time, and others on the second-floor porch below it, Cannon told Chicago television station CLTV.

Michelle Myers said her son was on the porch but managed to jump to the kitchen doorway as the floor gave way.

The wooden rails of the third-floor porch were still in place several hours after the collapse, but the floor was gone. Neighbors said they saw emergency workers using chain saws to cut through the debris to get to the victims. Langford said the porch appeared to be less than a year old.

“The porches back there could probably facilitate 20 to 30 people,” not the 40 to 50 police said may have been there Sunday, said one neighbor, Dr. David Guelich, an orthopedic surgeon.

“It was simply a case of too many people in a small space,” Joyce said. He urged people to be careful about safety with the upcoming July 4 holiday and Sunday’s annual Gay Pride Parade, which was scheduled for later Sunday in the same general neighborhood.




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