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Insurer, not police, to probe Montana deck collapse; 50 hurt

In this image taken Saturday, June 17, 2017, debris is strewn about at the scene where a second-story deck collapsed at a lodge near Lakeside, Mont. Authorities now say more than 30 people were taken to hospitals after the second-story deck of a Montana lodge collapsed during a memorial event for a firefighter. About 50 people were gathered to remember William Nickel, a longtime Flathead Valley firefighter who died in April. (?Firefighter/Engineer Mathew Borlandelli/Somers/Lakeside Fire Department via AP)

LAKESIDE, Mont. (AP) — Dozens of people who attended the memorial of a firefighter at a Montana resort gathered after the service on the lodge’s deck with its sweeping lake and mountain views, but the structure gave way, injuring at least 50.

Saturday’s collapse at the Glacier Presbyterian Camp left two people critically injured as of Sunday, and left many more to wonder whether the 10-foot-high deck buckled from the weight of too many people or if there was another reason it failed.

Determining the cause of the collapse will be up to the resort’s insurer, Lake County Sheriff Don Bell said.

“It was not a crime, so we won’t be investigating it,’ he said. “It’ll be handled between the property owner and the people who got injured yesterday.”

The injured were taken by ambulance and helicopters to five hospitals — the nearest one 30 miles (48 kilometers) away — while others drove themselves to be treated for broken bones, scrapes and bruises.

Officials for the Kalispell Regional Medical Center said in a statement that there were a number of orthopedic and neurological injuries that required immediate surgery.

“Our operating room was busy all night,” spokeswoman Allison Meilicke told the Missoulian.

One critically injured person was transported to a hospital in Seattle.

Leslie Dillon told the Daily Inter Lake that she was on the deck when it collapsed. She walked away with bruises, but many of her friends and relatives were taken away in ambulances, she said.

The people injured ranged from 3 years old to older than 80, Lakeside/Somers Fire Chief Tom Havens said.

There are only two ambulances in town, so authorities had to call for assistance from emergency responders from Missoula to Kalispell, Bell said

Glacier Camp has stood on 40 acres (16 hectares) on the western shore of Flathead Lake since 1931. Besides hosting a summer camp, it is a popular spot for religious retreats, weddings and other events.

The camp posted a message on its website Saturday, saying that a major accident had occurred and asked people to “please join us in praying for the injured and their families.”

The crowd had gathered for the memorial service of William Nickell, a Flathead Valley firefighter who died in April.

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