"Stage scenery crashes, two volunteers injured"

"Photo: Fire District 3 EMTs take the stage at South Whidbey High School to prepare the two accident victims for transport to Whidbey General Hospital. Injuries were relatively minor.Jim Larsen / staff photoTwo adult volunteers were injured Saturday when a heavy piece of scenery broke loose from the loft and crashed to the stage in the South Whidbey High School auditorium.The unit that fell weighed an estimated 300 pounds, according to drama teacher Mike McInerney. It fell about 25 feet to the stage where Lon Peterman and Jim Ellison were working on another prop.Both students and parents were at work Saturday, preparing for the Feb. 4 opening of the high school play, “Babes in Arms.” McInerney said he and several students had moments before carried a couch below the piece of scenery that fell. “It crashed all in pieces,” he said, relieved that no students were hurt and that the two men received relatively minor injuries.The large plywood structure with a painting of a barn plummeted when knots on the rope gave way. Peterman said it struck the stage and then fell on top of him and Ellison.Peterman said there was no warning anything was going wrong. “I was on my hands and knees laying out another prop,” he said.Both men were partially covered by the scenery, which was quickly removed. They stayed down and were removed on gurneys by Fire District 3 volunteers, and transported to Whidbey General Hospital.Peterman suffered a fractured scapula (shoulder blade). “I can’t do much with my right arm until it totally heals,” he said Monday as he recuperated at home. But he planned to go to the high school that afternoon to do what he could to help the production continue.According to McInerney, Ellison received a “glancing blow,” resulting in a badly bruised leg.It was the first such incident since the new auditorium opened three years ago, but McInerney said this particular piece of scenery was unusually large.“We’ve never flown anything that heavy,” he said. “Eight men spent four hours building it.”The scenery was hoisted up about two hours before it fell, and there was no sign of trouble. “Six of us looked at it,” he said.All brand new line was used to suspend the prop in the air. “We just got it two days before,” McInerney said. “The weight and the line were not up to the task.” The line failed where it was knotted in about six places.McInerney said extensive new safety policies will be put in place to assure that nothing similar ever happens again. “We’ll double-line everything,” he said. And the prop will be downsized to weigh considerably less.“On with the show -- with a double dose of safety,” he said. “It’s real important that the kids feel safe on the stage.”"

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