Tuesday, July 03, 2001

About 200 join to recall collapse of Lonz Winery

The Associated Press

        MARBLEHEAD, Ohio — There was a moment of silence for a man killed in a winery terrace collapse, but there also were joyful moments as survivors and rescuers marked the accident's first anniversary.

        About 200 people attended Sunday's reunion.

        The moment of silence was observed to remember Mark Reighard, 29, of Columbus, who was killed in the collapse at the harborside Lonz Winery on Lake Erie's Middle Bass Island on July 1, 2000.

A chance to heal
               Seventy-five people were injured when the concrete patio buckled and dropped them into an empty cellar.

        Joe Phillips, 26, of Dayton, Ohio, who was trapped under a soda vending machine, attended “to meet some of the people who helped rescue me from under the pop machine and thank them because they were all helping people they did not know.”

        For Linda McGrain, 44, a nurse of Arlington, Ohio, near Findlay, the reunion was a step forward.

        “The more I talk about the floor falling, the easier it gets to deal with,” said Ms. McGrain, who was standing on the front steps when the terrace collapsed.

        “Seeing some of the victims healed and better, I find myself a lot healthier and crying fewer tears.”

        Andrea Henson of Huntington, Ind., clutched tissues as she talked about how her husband was injured. She and two female friends had just gone to the restroom and “when we came out, the floor was gone.”

        She found her injured husband before he was flown off the island, then she took a ferry to Port Clinton. At Magruder Hospital, Ms. Henson met a woman from Port Clinton who went to the hospital to offer help.

        “She was a miracle. She drove me to Toledo, gave me a phone card and $20. I didn't have anything but bloody clothes,” Ms. Henson said.

        Her husband, Rick Henson, said the injuries that kept him home for three months changed his outlook on life. “You think about how lucky you are,” he said. “Anything can happen to you.”

Plans for a park
               Reunion organizer JoEllen Ruehle of Galion, near Mansfield, said she hoped the day brought some closure for the injured, their families and rescuers. She has no plans for a second reunion.

        The state now owns the Lonz Winery and plans to turn the 123-acre property into a state park.

        More than 40 lawsuits have been filed against Paramount Distilleries, the former owner of the winery. The Cleveland-based company has refused to comment about the lawsuits.


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