Partygoers jumped up and down to pulsating music in the middle of the clubhouse, celebrating Clemson University’s homecoming at an off-campus apartment complex.
The good times turned to chaos when the floor collapsed, dropping a room full of people into a lower level.
Thirty people were injured when the floor of a clubhouse collapsed during a party at The Woodlands Apartments in South Carolina, the Clemson City Police Department said.
Police received a call at 12:30 a.m. Sunday and responded to the apartment complex on Old Greenville Highway. Officers arrived to find more than two dozen injuries, although no one was entrapped and none of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening, police said.
Larissa Stone, a sophomore at Clemson University, said she arrived to the party about 20 minutes before the floor collapsed. She said a song played that "a lot of people liked."
"So everyone was jumping. The beat was about to drop and literally the whole floor collapsed," she said. "It happened so quickly. I stood up, and everyone was trying to climb out. People are under other people. People are hurt. People are bleeding. I had blood on my sneakers. It was really bad."
Police said a group had leased the clubhouse for a private party.
"It was packed," Stone said. "That many people should not have been in there."
Joe Galbraith, Clemson University's associate vice president for strategic communications, confirmed that the party was hosted by the Clemson Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
He said it is an annual event the group hosts around homecoming and that it is not “atypical for a student organization to have an event off campus at a facility like this in the community.”
He said the university is trying to identify which students were affected and to make sure their families and professors are informed and that they are aware of university resources available to them.
Various videos of the floor collapse have been posted on social media. In one video, people can be seen happily dancing before screams and chaos erupt.
"The floor broke," one woman yells.
Another video shows the gaping hole in the center of the room and people trying to climb out.
Resident Victoria Stokes, who has lived at the apartment for about a year, described the chaotic scene after the collapse. Stokes said she saw some people being carried out of the building using lawn chairs.
Stokes wasn't at the party, but described the apartment complex as quiet. She said the party was loud, but didn't think anything of it because it was homecoming weekend.
The Woodlands of Clemson is a "townhome and garden style condominium community" according to its website. The complex, which is about three miles away from Clemson University, includes both students and non-students.
Tal Slann, President of Woodlands Management of Clemson, Inc., sent an email to residents Sunday morning.
As you all know there was a party in the clubhouse last night. This party resulted in a collapse of the floor structure in front of the fireplace at the clubhouse. The Clubhouse and pool area is OFF LIMITS to all. The clubhouse will be inspected by structural engineers as soon as possible. From there, the homeowner’s association will determine how to rebuild the clubhouse to make it safe for all residents. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who were injured and we apologize for any inconvenience.
The complex has both student and non-student residents. Slann explained that the complex is not corporate-owned, and the homeowner's association manages all of the shared spaces, including the clubhouse.
According to the "Community Rules and Regulations Addendum" posted on the complex's website, "Tenant does hereby indemnify Landlord and agent, and hold Landlord and Agent harmless against all claims for personal injury sustained by Tenant, Tenant’s family and guest in their use and enjoyment of the pool or other provided facilities within the Community."
The injured people were transported to area hospitals by Clemson University EMS, Pickens County EMS and Med Shore Emergency Services. Clemson University Fire coordinated the efforts.
In all, EMS transported 23 attendees to local hospitals, while seven others arrived via “personal transportation," according to a statement from Clemson University.
Clemson University officials were notified of the incident early Sunday morning and were still gathering information about what happened.
Jim Clements, the university's president, described it as a "terrible situation."
“I want to personally thank all the first responders who quickly came to the aid of our students, including the Clemson University Fire Department and our Student Affairs team, which has been with our students and their families since early (Sunday) morning," he said through the university. "Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those affected by this very unfortunate incident.”
Kappa Alpha Psi, the fraternity hosting the party, was cited by the university in 2017 for holding an event at an off-campus rental during which "damages occurred to the property." The fraternity was required to submit documentation to the university saying the owners had been paid back and had to hold an educational session for all National Pan-Hellenic Council chapters at Clemson "to present the current fraternity and sorority social policy, including why each aspect of the policy is required and how they can be applied to NPHC social functions."
According to the university's report on conduct cases, the chapter met these requirements and the issue was resolved within the same month, by April 27, 2017.
Contributing: Jason Clary, Anderson Independent Mail
Follow Mollie R. Simon on Twitter: @mrsimon22