CARRABASSETT VALLEY — At least five people were injured Saturday night when a fire escape at the Rack bar and grill collapsed beneath partygoers.

The wooden fire escape collapsed at about midnight and sent at least 10 people tumbling 15 feet to the ground below, with the small platform and staircase crashing into the rocks and uneven ground, police said.

Two men and two women hurt in the collapse were taken by ambulance to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, with injuries ranging from broken bones to cuts and bruises, according to Carrabassett Valley Police Chief Scott Nichols.

A fifth person was taken to the hospital in a personal vehicle, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office Sgt. Ken Grimes, who is investigating the collapse.

Peggy Cannon, a clinical coordinator at the hospital, said Sunday afternoon that of the five people injured in the collapse, three were treated and released. Of the remaining two, one patient had been admitted to the hospital Sunday and the other was transferred to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, she said.

Nichols said he would not release the victims’ names Sunday, adding that three of the four transported by ambulance were Maine residents with ages from 26 to 51.

He said the partygoers should not have been on the second-story fire escape, which was “well marked” as an emergency exit with a “big red sticker” on the door.

“I think it was just too much weight,” Nichols said of the cause of the collapse. He said it will take a “couple of days” to determine an official cause and complete the incident report.

Jeff Strunk, co-owner of the Rack, declined to comment on the collapse. He said he owns the bar and grill with snowboarder Seth Wescott, the 2006 and 2010 Olympic gold medal-winner, and Chase McKendry.

The bar and grill had a near-capacity crowd, with the partygoers coming from the Reggae Festival held earlier Saturday at Sugarloaf ski resort, Nichols said. He could not give the number of people at the Rack during the collapse.

No bar staff was on the second floor at the time of the collapse, Nichols said, reached by phone. Witnesses said a “few” partygoers got onto the fire escape platform and the entire structure collapsed when at least 10 people piled onto the small wooden platform, he said.

Citing accounts of the collapse, Nichols said, “People were on top of each other, it was just a mess.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the collapse because there were injuries tied to a fire escape system, according to Grimes, who said other law enforcement agencies will determine a cause.

He could not give the age of the fire escape, but said, “looking at the materials it looks fairly new.”

“I didn’t detect any rotting in the wood,” Grimes said in a phone interview.

“The balcony gave way, presumably, under the weight,” he said, referring to the people standing on the fire escape designed as an emergency exit.

It’s unclear if an alarm system attached to the fire escape door went off, according to Grimes.

“I’m not aware if it was working or if it went off,” he said.

Grimes could not say if the law required the fire escape door to have an alarm system.

The inspection’s division at the fire marshal’s office may be investigating the alarm system, along with its certification and other issues, according to Grimes. That division will review the investigation report and decide whether to investigate further, he said.

He could not say Sunday if the fire escape had any code violations or certification issues.

The restaurant had been cleared Sunday to re-open the first floor only, with the upstairs temporarily closed until the fire escape can be repaired, Grimes said.

The Rack is located on the access road to Sugarloaf, but it is completely independent of the ski resort, according to Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin.

Austin could not give the number of people who attended the Reggae Festival events at the resort on Friday and Saturday. The annual spring music and skiing festival draws 6,000 to 10,000 on average, he said.

The festival activities continued on Sunday, which is the last day of the weekend full of concerts and skiing activities, Austin said.

Many of the independent bars and restaurants in town host their own bands over the weekend, he said.

David Robinson — 861-9287

[email protected]

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