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At least 24 hurt as deck collapses in North Carolina during family photo

At least 24 people were hurt when a deck at a beach house in North Carolina collapsed as a vacationing family gathered for a Fourth of July family photo, officials said Sunday.

Five people remained hospitalized Sunday evening, two in critical condition, according to a statement from the town of Emerald Isle, a tourist getaway on one of North Carolina's barrier islands.

Preliminary findings suggest the collapse was caused by deteriorated nails on the 29-year-old beachfront rental home, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, said the town's manager, Frank A. Rush Jr., in the statement.

"The entire town of Emerald Isle expresses its deepest concern for the family members involved in this incident, and continues to pray for a full recovery for those injured in this unfortunate accident," Rush said. "Although Emerald Isle is a busy and popular tourism destination, it prides itself on its 'family beach image' and 'small-town atmosphere,' and an incident of this nature affects our entire community deeply."

The collapse was reported at 6:59 p.m. Saturday, according to police and fire officials.

The family had gathered on a 24-by-12-foot deck when about half of the deck plunged at least 10 feet to the ground, Emerald Isle fire Chief Bill Walker told the Los Angeles Times.

“It was basically a one-story house that was built on pilings," Walker said.

The group included adults and children ranging from about 5 to 94 years old, he said.

City officials declined to identify the family, whose members largely hail from northern Virginia and whom officials say have requested privacy. 

Twenty-three patients were treated at the emergency room of Carteret General Hospital in Morehead City, hospital spokeswoman Michelle Lee told The Times. All were either treated and released or transferred to different facilities.

One victim was flown from the scene to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., police said. 

City manager Rush said in his statement that the home's construction standards appeared up to date and that no complaints had been lodged or deficiencies noted about the home.

Rush added that state law makes no provision for periodic inspection of vacation rental homes and that routine inspections are the responsibility of the property owner or manager.

The city said the home was owned by a North Carolina family, who were not identified, and was managed by Bluewater Vacation Rentals.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and others for injuries received as a result of this horrible accident," the rental company said in a statement released through the city. "We are asking everyone in this community for their prayers and support for the family."

The rental company's statement did not say whether it had inspected the property.

The company did not immediately respond to a message left at its Emerald Isle office Sunday.

A final report on the collapse was expected in a few days.

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