Ceiling collapses at Ridgecrest (updated 3/24)
    March 20 2009 by BR staff

    The ceiling of the outdoor covering of the front of a main building a Ridgecrest Conference Center collapsed March 20 at 4:45 p.m.

    No one was seriously injured.

    Registration had been taking place in the building, named Pritchell Hall, since 1 p.m. for the annual Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina Missions Extravaganza.

    Workers quickly brought in machinery to move debris to search for possible injured persons. The local fire department used a thermal imaging device as well.

    Bill Bowman, director at Ridgecrest, addressed the women that night during the group’s evening session, letting them know the building inspector had cleared the building but they were leaving the entrance closed for the remainder of the weekend.

    Bowman said Ridgecrest staff routinely pray for its conferences and the people involved.

    "We believe the Lord hears our prayers," Bowman said in a March 24 interview.

    On March 24, workers were out on lifts removing pieces that were still hanging from the ceiling. Bowman said the national insurance company has been contacted and that the main entrance was expected to be open later today (March 24) or Wednesday (March 25).

    "Right now, we're just trying to get risk factors removed," Bowman said.

    When Bowman talked to the building inspector Friday, the inspector confirmed the roof to be a solid structure. Bowman said they have not determined what they will do to re-cover that area. He said the ceiling was "all one big piece" and that they are considering either painting the area or covering it with lighter material, "something more modern."

    The high roof over the famous “rocking chair porch” where generations of Baptists have enjoyed the North Carolina mountains simple collapsed onto the porch, with concrete and pieces of the roof spilling down the steps in front of the building.

    At some points during the Friday afternoon registration, lines filled the lobby and people lounged in the porch’s rocking chairs and benches, gathering to catch up with friends and enjoy the beautiful day. There was little wind and the skies were clear at the time of the incident.

    Biblical Recorder assistant managing editor Dianna Cagle was on site to cover Missions Extravaganza. She was in the lobby of Pritchell Hall when she heard a rumbling noise. Looking up, she saw pieces of the ceiling falling in front of the building.

    She and North American Mission Board missionary Gary Mathis rushed out into the white powder to check for people. Some people were shouting “There was someone up there.” Mathis and Cagle scrambled around rumble looking in crevices and crawling on hands and knees to look. No one was found. Large chunks of rubble were too heavy to be moved.

    Pritchell Hall is Ridgecrest’s registration building and contains some hotel rooms where speakers to the national conferences often stay. It was built in 1964.

    Ruby Denton and Debbie Cramer of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton had been sitting in the rocking chairs on one end of the porch when the collapse began. They were covered with white powder from the concrete.
    They had been waiting for eight or nine others from their church, who were to meet them in front of the building. They saw one woman start up the steps but turn to get the water bottle she forgot just as the roof collapsed.

    “God always had a plan,” Cramer said. “Our plan was just to be amazed.

    “How much does my Lord love me?” she asked pointing to the pile of debris.

    Cramer said the ceiling peeled back from the building.

    “It was all in a wave,” she said.

    3/20/2009 11:17:00 AM by BR staff | with 3 comments
    Filed under: ceiling collapse, Ridgecrest Conference Center

Dedra Cagle
My sister, Dianna Cagle never ceases to amaze me. I am very proud of her for maintaining a full-time job, going to school full-time, and still managing to "Save" people. Every where she goes, she is bringing someone to Christ or at least planting seeds. So, it doesn't surprise me one bit that she would be at an event looking for hurt or injured people. Thankfully, there were none.

3/29/2009 10:43:35 PM

Dianna Cagle
Thank you for your comment ... you were right, the ceiling did fall, but it was attached to the roof. Getting the story online was an immediate priority Friday afternoon. As an eyewitness to the event words failed me as I was calling the story in. This was corrected Monday once I was back in the office and read the online version of the story. Other details were added Monday and again on Tuesday to more complete the story. Don't forget to view the online photo gallery available by clicking the words under the photo or click on 'Photo Gallery' in the Media section above left and view this photo gallery along with others.
3/25/2009 9:35:59 AM

Larry Burns
Based on a photo of the porch,the roof did not collapse, the ceiling fell. There was no concrete in the ceiling, just plaster. Plaster is not generally heavy enough to cause serious injury. The most newsworthy aspect is that it took 45 years for the ceiling to fall.
3/23/2009 11:34:34 AM

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