LAUREL, Miss. – The second floor of an activity center at a rural Mississippi church collapsed during an evening youth service, sending about 70 people tumbling and injuring 35 of them, witnesses and authorities said Thursdsay.
Pastor Tommy Davis at Freedom Baptist Church in Myrick told The Chronicle in Laurel that the floor at the activity center collapsed as dozens of youth were holding a worship service Wednesday evening. Witnesses described an ominous sounding rumble before the floor gave way.
"In the middle of the student service, the floor -- which is a second-story floor -- gave way, causing about 70 students to fall," Davis said. "But it's got to be said that no one was seriously injured, no one was trapped. God's hand was certainly taking care of the kids who were in that building."
Linda Cranford, a spokeswoman for the Jones County Fire Council in the region where the church is located, told The Chronicle that 35 people were hurt but none of the injuries was life-threatening. She said a 16-year-old girl with a head injury was taken to a hospital in Hattiesburg.
She said 19 others were taken to a hospital for treatment. Authorities said most of those injured were later released and witnesses described injuries including scrapes, cuts and possibly some broken bones.
Cranford did not immediately answer calls from The Associated Press for comment early Thursday.
Students said the collapse came unexpectedly while the service was under way, starting with a rumble in the building. Tori Hodge, 18, told the newspaper there was a brief scene of panic before calmness took hold.
"We heard a huge rumble and the floor collapsed and people collapsed with it," she said. "Everbody heard it. The floor started crumbling and waving. People started falling through the ceiling, just like you'd see in a movie."
There was no immediate report on what caused the collapse of the floor. But Davis praised the leaders of the worship service for quick action in restoring calm. He said the students, ranging between the 7th and 12th grade, had all been reunited with their parents afterward.
Several of those who tumbled were shaken but had only minor injuries and were treated and released at the scene once they were checked out by emergency crews, authorities said. Worried-looking relatives stood by amid the flashing lights of ambulances and emergency vehicles in the aftermath.
Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge said the drop was about 12 feet in the floor collapse.
Dispatcher Amanda Lofton at the Jones County Sheriff's Office told AP early Thursday she had no additional information to release about the injured and no information on a possible cause of the floor collapse.
Myrick is a small rural community northeast of Hattiesburg in southeastern Mississippi.