Fear as roof collapses

BY SCOT MACKAY
Last updated 19:18 18/09/2010

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Dozens of tennis players had to run for their lives on Saturday morning when roofing panels crashed around them at Stadium Southland.

About 12 youth tennis players and several parents had finished training and were preparing to leave about 11:25am when the roof above the courts came down under the weight of fresh snow.

At the time, tennis player Jason Smith was standing outside the courts in the stadium when the doors in front of him blasted open from the pressure and a piece of roofing panel flew by.

"I heard this huge noise and the doors to the main courts blew open  it was like a big explosion and I remember seeing what looked like a panel off the roof fly past me a couple of metres away.

"I thought it was a bit of an earthquake in the beginning and then realised nothing else was moving and just ran," he said.

He and his family had been playing on the courts just minutes before the roof collapsed, but everyone had cleared away immediately after their session was up.

While slowly moving towards the exit there was a loud crack and seconds later those in the stadium were sprinting for the door.

"We were 10 minutes away from absolute disaster, it is not something I would like to think about  we are lucky we got out when we did," Mr Smith said.

As everyone ran from the building another tennis player was left behind after climbing out of a shower just seconds before the roof collapsed.

Keiran Fahy said he was drying himself off when he heard the crack, but he had no idea what happened because he could not see anything.

"I heard this hell of a bloody bang ... (while) I was drying myself and thought I better get my clothes on.
"I walked out (of the changing room) and looked to where the courts were and there was just light. I thought 'shit, I'm getting out of here'.

"It would have been a bloody disaster if everybody was in there," he said. "If I had realised the roof had collapsed while I was in my jocks I don't think I would of felt very good because it was pretty cold outside," he said.

Tennis coach Andre Van Rooyen said the experience had left him and others shaken and feeling lucky to be alive.

The reason no-one was injured when the roof collapsed was because they were ushered away immediately after training to avoid getting trapped at the stadium in the deteriorating weather, he said.

"It was just lucky. I really think it could easily have been a few deaths  it was just carnage, it looked like a tornado coming as the roof collapsed," he said.

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- The Southland Times

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