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DRY ROT GETS BLAME FOR DECK COLLAPSE

SHARE DRY ROT GETS BLAME FOR DECK COLLAPSE

Dry rot is being blamed for the collapse of a deck that gave way Saturday night under the weight of about 18 wedding guests.

County building inspector Delbert Swensen wrote a report based on what he found during a preliminary inspection of the wreckage Saturday night. Swensen's inspection was cut short when he wasn't allowed on the property to take pictures or notes.About 8:47 p.m. a deck attached to the Cottonwood Heights home of Conrad Maxfield, a former Utah legislator, collapsed, sending wedding guests into oak brush and a concrete patio 10 feet below.

Six people were transported to local hospitals Saturday night, two in critical condition. Only one remains in the hospital, 84-year-old Geraldine Gaisford, who broke her upper leg. Salt Lake County Fire Battalion Chief Ron Morris said Gaisford is in fair condition now and is expected to go home later Tuesday or Wednesday.

Morris said many people were treated at the scene Saturday night for minor injuries such as cuts and bruises.

Swensen's report comes after two failed attempts to inspect the collapsed deck: one on the night of the accident and one Monday morning.

Swensen said he was called to the house, 3609 E. Escalade Ave. (8730 South), by county fire dispatchers. After looking briefly at the wreckage, he said, he left the yard to go to his car and get his camera and notebook.

"As I attempted to return to the accident site, I was prevented from returning by a man who represented himself as the owner's brother," Swensen wrote. "After presenting to him my concerns about not being able to inspect the site, I left, leaving a report that they should come into our office on Monday and obtain a pre-inspection permit to allow us to inspect it before any debris was removed."

But when Swensen returned to the house Monday about 9:30 a.m., he noticed the deck was gone. The woman who answered the door told Swensen she preferred he come back and talk to her husband later.

Maxfield said the written report he received said nothing about not removing the debris. He said the inspector was asked to leave the property because he didn't have credentials and was only "prevented from entering a hazardous site."

Swensen said homeowners don't have to let building inspectors on their property unless officials have a warrant. Despite only a preliminary look, he's fairly sure dry rot was the cause of the 20-year-old deck's collapse.

His report states the failure occurred in a 2-by-10 perimeter beam. He guessed the structure met applicable building codes when it was constructed in the 1970s.

He also noted in the report that the structure was capable of carrying even more than the load it held Saturday night.

"I'm sure that's what happened," Swensen said. "I'd like to have done a further investigation, but they took it away."