MANCHESTER — As many as a dozen Beech Street School students fell about four feet when a wooden platform collapsed Friday afternoon, causing bumps, bruises and a great deal of fright as parents scrambled to make sure their children were OK.
District Fire Chief Al Poulin said the initial call said 10 to 12 students had been injured, but many had left the scene before emergency crews arrived to find six children and a teacher who had fallen to the asphalt.
Two students were taken to the hospital, mostly as a precaution, Poulin said.
Christian Vazquez, a second-grader at the school, was one of the students who fell when a corner of landing connecting two annex buildings gave way.
“Everybody there just went down and fell,” said Christian, who noted emphatically that he was not scared during the commotion.
It was much more harrowing for his mother, Kristen Vazquez, who was told only that her 7-year-old son was among the students on the platform when it collapsed. She imagined the horrible possibilities before arriving and found that Christian just had a bump on his right leg.
“He's doing fine now,” she said.
Investigators are not yet certain what caused the landing to collapse. The wooden platform is at the end of a ramp that leads to the entrances to two of three annex buildings south of the main school.
Manchester School District Superintendent Thomas Brennan estimated that the ramps were between 10 and 12 years old. He said the Beech Street ramps and all others throughout the district will be closed until safety inspections have been completed.
“All of them will be assessed this weekend. Any issues that we have, we'll close them down and we'll find space within our school buildings to accommodate the students who would normally be in these portables,” Brennan said. “We're not going to take any chances with the safety and welfare of our students and staff — none. We'll act on it immediately.”
The situation could have been worse.
The southwest corner of the wrecked landing rested on the ground while the boards rose up to the undamaged portion, looking like an accordion. Guard rails meant to keep the students from falling off the landing stood intact, high above where the students and teacher landed.
Brennan was called away from a meeting and rushed to the scene, not knowing the extend of the damage or injuries.
“I was very fearful, especially as I drove up and I saw the ambulance and the fire engines. You become very concerned,” Brennan said. “These are young children. All kinds of thoughts run through your mind.”