The back deck, estimated at 25 feet above the ground, gave way as a crowd had congregated on the porch at about 8:30 p.m. at a residence on Snow Cap Drive.
Ruidoso interim Fire Chief Harlan Vincent said it was estimated 20 to 25 people were on the deck. Of those injured, two people were air lifted to hospitals in El Paso and Lubbock. Six people were taken by ambulance to the Lincoln County Medical Center. Some others were taken to the hospital by private vehicles to be checked out.
"The deck's under investigation right now from our building officials," Vincent said. "I'm sure it was just so many people out there on the deck that it just gave way."
A woman at a home next door said she thought too many people were on the porch.
"We were observing them, commenting that it looked unsafe, too crowded," said Karen Reeder, who was among a group of eight at Dave and Cathi MacIntosh's home. "Dave McIntosh decided that he would go warn them of the danger and went next door. He called up to them, telling them that the deck was older and looked unsafe, suggesting that some of them leave the porch and not lean so heavily on the railing. They made fun of him and laughed."
Reeder said later there was a horrendous noise and the realization that that the sound was the deck falling.
"Jeff was the first out the door and came back immediately saying, 'The whole think gave way. It collapsed.' All of our men went running over and realized that the railing was still hanging from the corner, threatening to come down on those people already on the ground. They all held it up for the duration of the event."
Reeder said emergency responders were quickly on the scene.
"When the deck collapsed, it was already dark and the responders had to deal with debris, people on the ground, disoriented guests who were wandering aimlessly, lost. Many were in shock and our group tried to help calm them, seating them at Cathi's house and suppyling blankets and ice packs."
Typically there are four ambulance crews available at the hospital, said Jim Stover, director of emergency medical services at Lincoln County Medical Center.
"When something like this comes out, we go ahead and page in the crews," Stover said. "We responded with four paramedic ambulances and then actually had two extra paramedics respond because it was considered a mass casualty incident."
Upon sizing up the situation, Stover said there were 16 people that were considered patients. Six were taken by ambulances to the hospital.
Ruidoso firefighters and police also assisted.
"All in all, it went pretty well," Stover said. "They were able to triage folks and identify those that needed transport and handled it as we do with our mass casualty incident plan. We were very fortunate because other than the two we flew out, I don't believe there were any that were critical patients."
A similar porch collapse injured a number of people in the early 1990s at the Swiss Chalet Inn.
"I don't want that to ever happen again," Vincent said.