Pier collapses at UW-Madison terrace, sending dozens into Lake Mendota, official says

ByJaymes Langrehr
Tuesday, September 5, 2023
25 injured when pier collapses at UW-Madison terrace: official
A Memorial Union pier collapse at the UW-Madison terrace left at least 25 people injured, a Madison, WI official said.

MADISON, Wis. -- A pier collapsed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Memorial Union Terrace Monday afternoon, sending dozens of people into the water, officials confirmed to News 3 Now.

The call for a water rescue came in for multiple area agencies at about 2:35 p.m. Monday.

Officials with the Madison Fire Department did not have an exact number for how many people fell into the water when the pier collapsed, but estimated anywhere between 60 and 80 people were on the pier when it collapsed. The UW-Madison Police Department told News 3 Now it also estimated that many people were on the pier at the time of the collapse.

It is unclear at this time exactly how many people were hurt. The Madison Fire Department says one person was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and five others were treated for minor injuries at the scene, but a UWPD officer told News 3 Now they estimated between 20 and 25 people with injuries, none of which were serious.

"Me and my friend who I was swimming with heard a big noise, and the whole dock was collapsing," UW-Madison student Nicole Mitchell, who was near the pier when it collapsed, said. "There were dozens and dozens of students on it, just tanning or jumping into the lake or talking with their friends and suddenly the whole thing gave way."

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Mitchell described the chaotic moments after the collapse as "fight or flight."

"At first I was like, 'Oh my god, what was that noise?'" Mitchell said. "And then it was like fight or flight. Oh my god, all of my stuff is on the dock, is everyone okay? Swimming back as fast as I can, and then we were standing on the dock as it was collapsing for a little while, should we swim back? We have all of our things, everyone is just standing here. It was like everyone froze."

It wasn't long before first responders pulled up in boats to help.

"The fire department came and was like, 'You all have to get off the dock, you can't walk back, it might collapse.' So then we were swimming with our phones in the air, like we didn't want to get them wet," Mitchell said. "Definitely scary, I was shaking for awhile, but (I'm) feeling better now."

Mitchell said she suffered a minor cut to one of her toes -- an injury she didn't feel right away due to the adrenaline.

As it responded to the scene, the Madison Fire Department sent two divers into the water after the collapse to make sure nobody was still underwater and ultimately gave an all clear when they did not find anyone else in the water.

Officials at UWPD say anyone who might have lost property during the pier collapse, whether it's cell phones, keys, or anything else that may have been in their pockets, should send an e-mail with a specific description of the items they lost to adam.prescott@wisc.edu.

In a press release Monday afternoon, officials at the Wisconsin Union said the area was not staffed by lifeguards at the time of the pier collapse, adding the pier was scheduled to be removed from the water on Tuesday, Sept. 5 due to the end of the summer season.

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