A wooden theater stage collapsed during a performance at the private all boys Catholic Servite High School in Anaheim, California, about 25 miles outside of Los Angeles at around 11 p.m. on Saturday night resulting in dozens of injuries. According to emergency responders, approximately 250 students were performing on the stage at the time of the incident, with a reported 25 suffering injuries that required treatment at an area hospital. The injuries were described as “mainly minor” and included broken bones, scrapes and bruises. The girls reportedly fell approximately 10 to 15 feet.
The performers were reportedly all freshman and sophomore students from a Servite sister-school, the nearby private all-girls Rosary High School in Fullerton, California. They were performing an enthusiastic costumed dance number as a part of their annual “Red and Gold” program when the entire front section of the stage collapsed beneath them. The Red and Gold program is an annual musical theater competition for which students prepare song, dance and drama numbers over a period of weeks. The program has been a Rosary High School tradition in California since 1971 and serves as a fundraiser for the school.
An official from the Anaheim Police Department has stated that the cause of the collapse was likely simply that there were too many people and too much weight for the theater stage to support. An investigation into whether the permit for the stage included restrictions on how many people could be on the stage or how much weight it could safely support is ongoing. The school was cleared for a period of about four hours after the collapse. Both California high schools, Servite and Rosary, have issued statements in the wake of the unfortunate incident thanking the public for their prayers and support during the difficult time and saying that the students involved remain in their thoughts and prayers as well.
An estimated 500 spectators were in the auditorium at the time of the stage collapse. Video footage of the incident shows chaos erupting in the wake of the disaster. Girls still on the stage just inches away from the edge of the collapse appear horrified and fearful parents stormed the area in an effort to assist those who fell and were injured.
In the hours after the event, students and others took to Twitter to express their dismay and were using the hashtag #redandgold2014. Many said that they couldn’t bear to think about it or to watch the footage because it reduced them to tears. Others made jokes to lighten the somber feelings including remarks about “bringing down the house” and the fact that the “red” competitors must win by default because “gold” was on the stage at the time of the collapse. One person even appears to have created a Twitter account named “@servitestage” shortly after the collapse with only one tweet sent out thusfar: “Ouch.” A majority of those taking to social media, however, simply offered their prayers, love and thoughts to everyone involved in the frightening stage collapse at the California high school, including the dozens injured.
By Michele Wessel