Clinton, Mo Elks Lodge Collapses, Jun 2006

Nine rescued, 1 killed in building collapse

Lodge member: 'It's just amazing that any of us got out of there'

(CNN) -- One person was killed when a building housing an Elks Lodge in Clinton, Missouri, collapsed, the top two floors crashing down and trapping 10 people, authorities said.

"We just located the 10th trapped victim," Clinton Fire Department spokesman Sean Carter said about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday. "He's been confirmed dead."

Tony Komer, 32, was the club's president. He had been on the third floor preparing for an initiation ceremony while other members ate dinner on the second floor.

Everyone else had been rescued from the building, Carter said. Although some were flown to nearby hospitals, he said he did not believe their injuries were life-threatening.

Komer was apparently the only person on the third floor when the collapse occurred about 7:30 p.m. Monday.

"It's just amazing that any of us got out of there," said Don Eaton, who was among those who were pulled from the debris.

Of the nine, one man had a head wound, and another man who had had health problems was flown to Kansas City, 80 miles away, as a precaution, he said. At the time, they were unaware that Komer had been on the third floor.

One of Komer's relatives declined to comment to CNN on Tuesday morning, saying, "we just lost a family member."

Komer reportedly was married and had two children.

Some of the trapped were able to speak with rescue workers using their cell phones.

Video of the three-story building showed the brick exterior largely intact, but a pile of furniture and debris could be seen on the first floor, where a clothing store was located.

Steve Cummings owns the store and was on the second level when the floors collapsed. He said the floors caved in as the Elks were having a dinner as part of an initiation ceremony for at least 50 new members.

"I just saw the tables that we had in the middle of the room, they just started disappearing," Cummings told CNN. "You just saw people drop."

He said he and about 40 others escaped through an adjacent door and emergency staircase.

Eaton told CNN that as the group ate dinner, "all of a sudden there was a loud noise, and I turned to see what it was, and the floor had disappeared.

"Before I had a chance to move, the floor underneath me caved in, and myself and nine other members of the Elks Lodge dropped, with the floor, down halfway between the first floor and the second floor, with the third floor and the roof caving in on top of us," he said. "It all happened so fast, but yet it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion."

Eaton said the building collapsed about 7:30 p.m., and it took emergency workers several hours to shore up the building so they could start getting people out. He said it was around 12:30 a.m. when he and the first group of survivors were pulled out.

"It was almost as if God sent his angels there to protect us and to keep us from harm's way," Eaton said. "It's a life-changing experience."

Tammy Woirhaye, a spokeswoman for Golden Valley Memorial Hospital in Clinton, about 80 miles southeast of Kansas City, said 11 people were brought to the medical facility.

Some were treated and released, she said.

Witness Diane Hannah estimated that more than 100 emergency personnel were on the scene, along with 30 ambulances.

Clinton Mayor Gus Wetzel said the collapse has affected "every life in this community."

"This is the worst of nightmares for myself and our community," he said.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is a fraternal and charitable organization that has more than 2,000 lodges across the United States.