The junior class was celebrating at the Harro East Ballroom when the incident occurred, injuring more than a dozen students.
All but one of the 13 students injured at the Irondequoit High School junior prom Sunday night was back at school Tuesday morning following the Memorial Day holiday.
That student, who is wearing a collar as a precautionary measure due to a neck injury, is expected back Wednesday, IHS Principal Patrick McCue said Tuesday morning.
Contrary to some media reports, McCue said there’s no evidence that students were climbing or “hanging” on the roughly 12-foot high light structure, a portion of which fell from the stage in the Harro East Ballroom in downtown Rochester around 10 p.m. Sunday — about an hour before the conclusion of the prom.
Rochester Police Department investigators told district officials early Monday that they had completed their probe, determining the incident was accidental.
Based on reports from adult chaperones and security personnel at the prom, McCue said, it appears that one or more of the six to eight students invited to dance on stage by the DJ may have braced themselves on the base of the light structure to hoist themselves up, and that could have led to the accident.
However, chaperone Sandy Glidden — a teaching assistant at IHS — said it didn’t appear that anyone but the DJ was on the stage when the lights fell. She was watching the prom from the Harro East balcony and happened to be videotaping a couple of her students dancing when the accident occurred.
“No one was around it (the light structure) or touching it, from what I could see,” Glidden said. “Kids were close to the stage, dancing, but no one was on it (or the light structure) ... Then all of a sudden the lights were falling like in slow motion ... That’s when I stopped taping and ran downstairs.”
She added that earlier in the evening, when she was at a buffet table near the stage, she noticed the light structure — which was on wheels — wasn’t secured to the stage.
“I thought that was strange,” she said.
McCue he doesn’t want the incident to reflect negatively on the DJ company, which is led by IHS grad Alex Ninevski. The DJ did tell the district that the light structure had been locked into place and tested for stability when it was set up Sunday morning, before the prom.
McCue described the light stand as two poles with scaffolding holding the spotlights in-between.
IHS junior Jessica Plukas was on the dance floor when she and others saw the lights start to fall.
“It was very slow ... a lot of us looked up and saw them start to come down,” she said.
“Everyone was just dancing and having a good time,” added classmate Russell Dinolfo.
McCue said that a couple of students actually stepped in, as the lights fell, to keep one end from crashing to the floor. Chaperones ran in with planters to prop it up, but the other end did fall.
Jessica said the lights were close to her as they fell, but she was able to step back. The lights were on a metal frame, Russell added, likening them to theater lights.
“There was a split second where everyone automatically stepped back, almost in shock,” Russell said. “Then everyone sprang into action.”
Some of the students helped pull what he called the scaffolding off students it had fallen on.
McCue said the most serious injuries were to two male students, one of whom sustained a concussion and the other a neck injury. He declined to name any of those injured.
A total of 13 students, most of them “with bumps and bruises to their shoulders and arms,” McCue said, were taken to either Strong Memorial Hospital or Rochester General. McCue and school district Superintendent Jeffrey Crane visited the students and their families at the two hospitals.
McCue confirmed that by 2 a.m. Monday, all of the students had been treated and released.
The annual IHS junior prom, held the Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend in recent years, started at 7 p.m.
Parents, who traditionally organize and host an alcohol-free after-hours party at the school after the prom, opened the doors an hour early, as the accident resulted in an early end to the dance.
“The parents, the limo drivers, staff, chaperones ... just everyone did a wonderful job,” McCue said.
Assistant Principal Wade Bianco, an advisor to the junior class, attended the prom as a chaperone, as did McCue, who estimated that 30 adults were at the event, including security.
“The emergency response was fantastic,” as was the way the ballroom was cleared out, Bianco said, adding that immediately after the accident, there were two students he was most concerned about and a third student who appeared to have been hit in the head.
“The kids’ response was just awesome,” Bianco said.
When the lights hit the ground they all shattered, so there was glass everywhere, and a lot of the girls weren’t wearing their shoes, Jessica said at the after-hours party. She knows of two classmates who sustained minor injuries, one a cut to the head and one a sore shoulder.
“A lot of the girls were upset. We didn’t know who was (struck),” she said.
McCue said when he arrived at the after-hours party he found a subdued crowd, but one that was much happier when they heard all of their classmates were going to be fine.
By about 11:45 p.m. Sunday, about half of the 350 to 400 who attended the prom had arrived at the school for the after-hours party.
“They deserve to have this (party),” district spokeswoman Carol Crumlish said as she stood outside the back entrance of the school and watched students file in.
Parent Sheila Harvey, who had a daughter at the prom, said the whole incident was very scary.
“You hear about these things happening ...,” she said, but don’t expect them to happen so close to home.
Lorraine Spena said her daughter called her from the prom just to make sure their group’s limo came to pick them up.
“She was a little upset,” she said, “but you don’t know the magnitude until you see it.”
While police aren’t filing any criminal charges in connection with the accident and the cause remains unclear, McCue said the district is doing its own investigation, mostly around who was on stage.
Whether any disciplinary action will be taken has not yet been determined, he said. He did say the district was allowed to go back into the ballroom Monday to pick up prom favors that had been left behind.
“Our main concern is the safety and well-being of the students,” McCue said. “This could have been a lot worse.”
Cell phone video submitted by Sandy Glidden. Linda Quinlan can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 350, or at email@example.com