LOCKPORT – Seventeen people were homeless Friday evening, as a staircase collapsed inside an apartment building off Lincoln Avenue in the Town of Lockport.
Two women said they were injured when a plaster ceiling beneath a wooden staircase fell on them at 6559 Lincoln Place.
Two steps on a short staircase between the first and second floors gave way.
One of the injured women, Tara Gibson, said, “Kids were running up and down the stairs.”
She added, “Part of the stairs fell on my shoulder and on my neck, and I just had neck surgery not even a month [ago].”
She said a friend, Cynthia Hazzard, who also lives in the building, was hit in the head.
Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said Building Inspector Brian M. Belson condemned the building because the wrecked staircase left tenants on upper floors with only one escape route from the building. At least two are required by the fire code.
The American Red Cross said it is helping five families living in the building find shelter.
Onlookers who live in other buildings in the multi-unit complex told a reporter that structural conditions are poor in several of the other buildings, too.
Smith said the town will be looking into conditions at Lincoln Place in the coming days.
Hazzard, who said she was treated in Eastern Niagara Hospital for a muscle tear in her neck, said there are 12 apartments in the building.
“Somebody was walking downstairs and the stairs collapsed,” Hazzard said as she bent down under the yellow tape blocking the entrance to return to her apartment and obtain some clothing. The incident happened around 6 p.m.
She said she was going to be put up in a local motel by the Red Cross, which normally gives shelter for three days after emergencies.
Town records identify the owner as Michael R. Morgante of Clarence, who purchased the property for $290,000 in 2010. The 12,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1988. It is one of two buildings in Lincoln Place for which Morgante is listed as the owner.
Red Cross volunteers Henrietta Hady and Diane Sargent are assisting the families.
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the incident.