Girl injured after air conditioning duct falls

By Patrice Dougan

An area inside the main lobby of Event Cinemas in Newmarket has been cordoned off after the ceiling partially collapsed. Photo / Sarah Ivey
An area inside the main lobby of Event Cinemas in Newmarket has been cordoned off after the ceiling partially collapsed. Photo / Sarah Ivey

An angry mother has criticised how staff at an Auckland cinema handled a ceiling collapse in which a young girl sustained minor injuries this morning.

Shae Evans said staff at Event Cinemas in Newmarket should not have allowed customers - especially children - into the building while emergency services were still making the place safe.

Around 16 square metres of ceiling panels and air conditioning equipment fell onto a seating area in the foyer of the cinema shortly before 9.50am.

A young girl was treated by ambulance staff for scratches to her hand, cinema staff said, while an ambulance spokesperson said one person received minor injuries.

However, Ms Evans - who had taken her two sons, aged five and 11, to see a movie - said it was not acceptable to continue serving customers while emergency services were still at work.

They had been allowed into the foyer and had bought tickets and food before they realised what had happened, she said.

"They're going about their normal business. It's ridiculous," she said.

"You would think they would close the cinema down."

While the area directly underneath the collapse had been cordoned off, children were milling around the foyer just 25 minutes after the incident, with the cinema continuing to trade throughout.

Debris could be seen lying on the ground, and wires, cables and pipes were hanging down from the hole in the ceiling. Customers were advised to stay away from the area.

The area inside Event cinemas in Newmarket where the air conditioning unit collapsed into the lobby ticketing area.
The area inside Event cinemas in Newmarket where the air conditioning unit collapsed into the lobby ticketing area.

Ms Evans described the situation as "pretty horrible".

She said she was asked to leave after taking photographs of the collapsed section and telling a staff member the building should be closed.

She did not want to take her children into the theatre room to see the movie, as she was concerned about their safety, she said.

"This is not on. Kids flock here during the holidays. It's not a place where you expect to get hit by something falling from the ceiling.

"I'm thanking my lucky stars that my kids weren't hurt, nor any other kids for that matter, especially before Christmas."

Building engineers were being called in to inspect the ceiling and the air conditioning system, in a bid to discover how it fell.

The venue has recently undergone refurbishment work, however no work had been done on the ceiling, Event Cinemas' area manager Ryan Novak said.

"The builders are coming in to assess what's gone on, but other than that I really don't know what's happened, to be honest," he said.

Four fire trucks, a specialist rescue unit and a helicopter were initially sent to the scene, Fire Service northern communications said. However, as it was a "minor roof collapse", only two trucks remained on the scene to secure the area.

- APNZ

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