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B.C. pastor says it's a miracle more people weren't hurt in concert floor collapse

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - A pastor at the Abbotsford, B.C. church where dozens of people plunged through an auditorium floor Friday during a concert is thankful the injuries weren't more severe.


ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - A pastor at the Abbotsford, B.C. church where dozens of people plunged through an auditorium floor Friday during a concert is thankful the injuries weren't more severe.

"It really is a miracle that more people weren't seriously injured or that there weren't any fatalities," high school pastor Colin Ashton said. "We're just so thankful that it wasn't worse than what it was."

Almost 1,600 people gathered at an Abbotsford, B.C. Bible college Sunday to pray for the people injured when a church hall floor collapsed during a Christian rock concert.

Ashton said members of Central Heights Church as well as other congregations turned out for the service.

A number of concertgoers were present for the worship service, including one parishioner who was on security duty when he plunged through the floor, Ashton said.

"He was here this morning walking on crutches. He's in good spirits."

The evening concert crowd was rocking when Felicia Daase looked on in horror as her friends plunged "like an elevator" through the floor of the auditorium.

A mostly teenage audience of about 1,000 had gathered to watch a popular Christian rock band when people were sent falling several metres into the basement below.

Felicia Daase, 17, who was sitting in a pew farther back from where the floor caved in, said that minutes before the collapse members of Starfield were urging the audience to stop jumping up and down.

"I started hearing the lead singer, he started yelling, 'Stop guys, stop,"' she said.

Seconds after the collapse, the large lighting and sound system, which was attached to a metal stand extending up from the floor, toppled over onto audience members as the wood beneath it gave way, witnesses said.

"The whole floor just went down, kind of like an elevator, it just went straight down," Daase said Saturday from her home in nearby Chilliwack.

"And then I saw the beam that holds the lights and stuff, and it fell about five pews in front of me. A whole bunch of people were under it."

As people scrambled to help the people in the dank cellar, a lone pew dangled precariously at the lip of the gaping hole.

The local health authority said more than 40 people were treated in hospital for injuries that included bruises and broken bones.

Two people were transported to hospital in Vancouver, and police confirmed one of them, a 41-year-old woman, was reported to have suffered critical injuries and underwent surgery.

The second patient in Vancouver, a young teen, was in stable condition Saturday at B.C. Children's Hospital, said Fraser Health Authority spokesman David Plug.

As they recover, the church itself remains surrounded by security to ensure the integrity of the police and engineering investigation, said Abbotsford Police spokesman Const. Roger Gosal.

He said it's to early in the probe to speculate what might have caused the floor supports to collapse.

Inside the church, a square hole several metres wide gapes before the base of the stage, with a mess of wood, speakers and wires on the basement floor below. One leg of the lighting stand appeared to have fallen into the hole during the collapse.

Instruments and other equipment belonging to the band remained on stage.

One fan left behind a CD of one of the opening bands in a pew on the balcony.

Rob Neiman, a 42-year-old Christian bookstore worker who was at the concert, said he looked into the hole and saw more than 50 people down below.

"It was like a pile of wreckage, bodies laying everywhere people running and scattering," he said. "And then there was rescue people down there trying to rescue people from under the rigging and the pews."

Despite the large crowd packed into the church at the time, Neiman said the scene was mostly orderly immediately after the collapse.

Some rushed outside as fire sprinklers rained down, while others, including the band's singer, tried to help the injured.

"The lead singer of the band, as soon as it happened, he actually threw his microphone to the side and he jumped right into the crowd to start saving people," said Neiman.

"He jumped right down into the hole, 10 feet down, and he was down there pulling stuff off people and trying to get people out."

The concert was organized by a private promoter that rented the church space, and similar events have been held without any problems, said the church's head pastor, Chris Douglas.

Douglas, who wasn't at the event but headed to the church soon after hearing what happened, said the main worship hall was well below its capacity of 1,300 or 1,400.

In the coming week, Ashton said, the church will start looking at what can be done about the building.

We're just trying to make it through the weekend and just be there for the families of the injured."

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