BRIDGEPORT, Texas – Friends left flowers, pictures, teddy bears and messages at a makeshift memorial Wednesday inside a Texas high school after one teenager died and another was injured when a storefront awning fell on them.
Counselors were available at the 600-student high school, where classes had started for the year just a day before Tuesday's accident. Superintendent Eddie Bland said he spoke to the staff Wednesday morning.
"I said that I know we're heartbroken, but it's OK to be heartbroken," he told The Associated Press. "I wanted to reassure them that we understand, and we're going to do everything in our power to help the families, the students and the community get through this."
Leslie Denison and Rebekah Logan, both 17 and seniors, were jogging on the sidewalk in downtown Bridgeport after school when they were hit by a falling 40-foot section of aluminum awning and some concrete and bricks from the building to which it was attached.
Denison died at the scene. Logan, who had severe cuts to her face, was airlifted to a hospital about 45 miles away in Fort Worth and was released early Wednesday.
Authorities suspect that the age of the building, which was built in the 1960s, and structural fatigue may have contributed to the collapse, said city spokeswoman Amber Fogelman. A city engineer inspected the site and was expected to release a preliminary report by Thursday, she said.
The collapse of the awning over Club Barbell left a heap of debris strewn across the parking area and into the road. A separate storefront awning next door to the gym remained intact.
Officials were still trying to determine when the awning was built and researching the business' building permits and inspection records, but "at this point it appears to be a freak accident," Fogelman said.
Club Barbell was closed Wednesday because of damage to the building, although city workers removed the debris and some bricks and concrete left hanging after the awning collapsed. Gary Emmert, who was listed on the door as the owner and personal trainer, did not immediately return a message left at his home Wednesday.
Throughout the day at the school, some students sat quietly in chairs around a long table covered with flowers, snapshots and notes written to the two teens who were cheerleaders and ran cross-country. One large poster decorated with a heart read, "Leslie Denison: forever in our hearts."
Students and staff had held a candlelight vigil Tuesday evening at the school gymnasium.