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Deck collapse injures athletes [partial story]

Trenton Times – Trenton, NJ
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Robert Stern

Former Steinert High School star running back Jim Costello, 19, suffered serious head trauma yesterday morning in a Long Beach Island deck collapse in which six or seven other people — including several fellow Hamilton athletes — were hurt as well.

The mishap occurred at about 9:15 a.m. as Costello and seven others gathered on the second-floor deck of a bayfront rental house on East Bay Terrace in Ship Bottom.

The deck gave way without warning while the group of friends casually leaned their forearms on its railing as they gazed at three kayakers gliding along Manahaw kin Bay, said former Steinert star pitcher Rich C. Balgowan, who was injured in the accident.

Balgowan, who graduated this year from Steinert, said he suffered cuts, bruises and an aching back and side in the collapse that police estimated dropped Costello and his buddies about 20 feet.

Balgowan said he was the last one to walk out onto the deck.

Two or three minutes later, it just collapsed without any sign at all that it was unstable, he said.

“It fell straight down, happened right away,” Balgowan said. “We didn’t hear anything.”

The second-story deck crashed onto the railing of the house’s first-floor deck — “and that’s how people fell (off the upper deck) and got hurt,” Balgowan said.

Ship Bottom police Chief Paul Sharkey said Costello was the most badly hurt — having sustained head trauma — although he was conscious when emergency person nel arrived.

As a precaution, Costello was flown by medical helicopter to the trauma center at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Atlantic City, Sharkey said.

Costello remained in serious condition last night, a nursing supervisor at the hospital said.

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The other people injured on the deck include Steinert grad Danny Mattonelli, a senior outfielder for Kean University’s 2007 NCAA Divi sion III national champion baseball team; former Steinert linebacker Andrew Bauer, who graduated from Steinert this year; Dan Rossi, another 2007 Steinert graduate who played football and ice hockey for the school; and Kevin Ream, a 2007 Steinert graduate who was a kicker and punter for its football team, Balgowan said.

He said he wasn’t sure of the names of the other two people on the deck when it collapsed, al though one of them was a friend of Mattonelli from Kean.

Balgowan said he and at least six of the seven others who were in jured were taken to Southern Ocean County Hospital in Manahawkin, where they were treated and released.

“A lot of people had a sore back,” Balgowan said.

Sharkey said the deck simply detached from the side of the house. News video footage of the scene indicated that the deck seemed to have been attached to the house with nails.

Officials had not determined the cause of the mishap yesterday but the borough’s building code inspector began an investigation into the incident and deemed the house at least temporarily uninhabitable, Sharkey said.

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However, Sharkey said a neighbor of the house who witnessed the deck collapse independently indicated to police that the incident didn’t arise from some raucous behavior but happened out of the blue.

Nineteen people ranging in age from 18 to 22 years old, including the eight who survived the deck collapse, were at the house when police responded to the mishap, Sharkey said.

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Copyright ©Trenton Times – Trenton, NJ

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