Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Teen, 19, suffers broken back in Dunedin balcony tragedy

Family fear student may never walk again with three fractures to back.

A 19-year-old woman who suffered spinal injuries in a Dunedin balcony collapse remains in Christchurch hospital in a serious but stable condition.

The teen, who the Herald has chosen not to name, suffered multiple fractures following the incident where a packed balcony collapsed during a Six60 concert. Her family now fear she may never walk again.

Her grandmother told the Herald on Sunday last night that her granddaughter's surgery had gone well "but the outlook is not great".

"She has broken her back in three places. It's pretty horrible. I'm sure she will pull through but she's got a long road ahead."

Eighteen people were taken to Dunedin Hospital's emergency department after the incident in Castle St about 7.45pm on Friday.

16 patients have been discharged. The condition of another patient who suffered serious injuries is unknown.



Yesterday evening Six60 sent their best wishes to those injured in a post on Facebook.

"We are very upset that people were hurt. We've checked in with the hospital and wish all those injured a speedy recovery," the post read.

Worried university friends have relived the "hysterical" scenes that saw 18 people hospitalised, including two with serious injuries.

Lauren Tye, a 20-year-old nutrition student, said members of her Varsity Women's A rugby team were on a night out as they waited for band Six60 to play. Four were directly below the balcony - which had up to 30 partygoers on it but was only built to take the weight of eight people - when it collapsed.

"I heard a crack from above me but I was lucky because I stepped back as it as it fell," Tye said.

She had been trying to get updates on her friend who has been transferred to Christchurch Hospital for surgery on her spine. "I don't know at the moment but she couldn't feel her legs last night or this morning," she said.

Three others were trapped beneath the platform. "It was scarier to sit there helpless and watch the other girls just lying there. Some of the rugby girls were hysterical. Seeing the state they were in was just horrible."

Tye escaped with a bruised ankle and a nasty lump on her head. A team-mate who broke a leg and fractured an ankle was now out of hospital.

Student Lily Adsett, who was close to the balcony when it collapsed, yesterday described the aftermath as "pretty slow-mo".

"There were just so many students helping out " and Campus Watch."

Six60 sent the best wishes through Facebook last night.

Video

A WorkSafe New Zealand spokeswoman said the department will decide whether to launch an investigation and were already working with police.

Film maker and animation expert Ian Taylor said he and videographers from Animation Research Limited were filming the Six60 concert in cutting-edge technology that enables viewers wearing head-sets to gain 360-degree views when the deck collapsed. He yesterday handed the footage over to police.

Taylor would not publicly release the footage out of respect to those injured and the ongoing investigation.

Safety consultant Clive Doubleday was an Occupational Health and Safety inspector for 17 years and said liability could be called into question under the Health and Safety Act. Liability could potentially be against the landlord or the tenant, but he added the latter was unlikely.

Richard McKnight, a shareholder in the company that owns the damaged flat, told the Otago Daily Times he knew nothing about the collapse "apart from what I've seen in the press".

The company, Ogato Investments Ltd, had owned flats in the Castle St block since 2001.

McKnight said he was not aware of any previous problems with the balconies.

McKnight had not been to the property yesterday, but said he would be "working through" the situation with the property manager.

"I'm obviously sorry for the people who were injured," he said "I'm obviously thinking about the poor students who were hurt."

- Herald on Sunday

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