Tragedy can strike in the blink of an eye. You hear that kind of statement all the time. For some reason, we never think the tragedy will happen within the range of our eyes, until it does. And then it can be hard to know what to think or what to do.
That may well have been the case last weekend for those who witnessed the collapse of a concrete canopy outside of a high school in Iredell County, North Carolina. The shift from calm to chaos took maybe a second, said one South Iredell freshman who was at the scene.
He is quoted as saying that a group of students standing under the canopy heard what sounded like thunder and then the structure came tumbling down. Despite little time to react, some people were able to get clear of the hazard.
Twenty-five people were not so lucky, however. And as of early this week, five still remained hospitalized. Media reports say the list of injuries include broken bones and head injuries. One student lost a leg.
Officials say the collapse happened when a box truck hauling band instruments struck the concrete overhang. There are indications that some sort of warning for trucks to beware was in place. Apparently it was ignored.
All this raises obvious questions about liability. Was the structure safe? According to school officials, engineers have inspected it and declared it sound — though it is due for replacement in a few years.
What about the truck and its driver? Based on pictures from the scene, it appears the truck was a rental vehicle that anyone with a valid license could obtain. The name of the driver hasn’t been released, but the North Carolina Highway Patrol is looking into whether charges should be filed in the matter.
Depending on the results of the investigation it may be that the school might bear some liability for insufficient security. It might also be possible that the driver could be held to account. To be sure answers are delivered and rights are protected, victims and their families would do well to consult with experienced attorneys.