Cowboys Scout Paralyzed in Facility Collapse

High winds collapse indoor practice facility, injuring 12

By David Jimenez, Jaime Aron and Lita Beck
|  Monday, May 4, 2009  |  Updated 7:01 PM CDT
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Cowboys' Practice Facility Collapses

KXAS

Dallas Cowboys scouting assistant Rich Behm is paralyzed from the waist down after Saturday's accident.

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RAW VIDEO: A Look Inside the Collapsed Cowboys' Facility

RAW VIDEO: A Look Inside the Collapsed Cowboys' Facility

RAW VIDEO: Todd Archer Discusses Being Trapped In Collapse

RAW VIDEO: Todd Archer Discusses Being Trapped In Collapse
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A Cowboys scout was paralyzed, and 11 more people were injured when winds just shy of hurricane strength ripped through the roof of the team's indoor practice facility during a rookie minicamp Saturday.

Scouting assistant Rich Behm, 33, sustained a fracture to his Thoracic spine, permanently paralyzing him from the waist down, the Cowboys said Sunday.

In a statement, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team extends its love, comfort and support to Behm and his family.

"Rich is a courageous member of our family and someone for whom we care deeply," Jones said. "We ask for all friends and fans of the Dallas Cowboys to join us in embracing him and his family with their thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time."

Behm underwent surgery Saturday night and was in stable condition at Parkland Hospital on Sunday, the team said.

Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, 43, fractured one of his cervical vertebrae. He had successful surgery Monday to stabilize the fractured vertebra in his neck and was in stable condition at Parkland Hospital. The team said DeCamillis should be released from the hospital later this week.

"They say he's lucky not to be paralyzed," said former coach Dan Reeves, DeCamillis' father-in-law, on Saturday.

DeCamillis, a first-year Dallas coach, was seen being removed on a stretcher wearing a neck brace.

Assistant athletic trainer Greg Gaither, 35, broke his right leg. Gaither sustained a fracture to the tibia and fibula and had surgery Saturday night at Baylor University Medical Center. He should be released later this week, the Cowboys said.

Assistant secondary coach Brett Maxie was also injured; a gash on his leg was stitched up on Saturday.

Players were told not to discuss the episode with reporters.

The storm hit while 27 players were going through workouts. There were about 70 people in the facility, counting coaches, other team personnel and media, officials said.

Ten of the injured were taken by emergency vehicles. Two others went to hospitals on their own.

Dr. Paul Pepe, head of emergency medical services for Dallas County, says he didn't think anybody had life-threatening injuries.

Witnesses said lights started flickering and shaking minutes before the collapse, prompting players, coaches, staff members and reporters to vacate the building. Several people were trying to exit the facility when the roof collapsed.

"I saw it coming down and didn't have time to react," secondary coach Dave Campo said. "I hit the ground and was able to get back up."

One of the team's video staff was the first out the door, followed by Nick Eatman of DallasCowboys.com.

Eatman was hit by something and went down a few feet away, then heard someone screaming for help. He recognized it was Todd Archer of The Dallas Morning News.

Eatman and colleague Josh Ellis tried freeing Archer, but the structure wouldn't budge.

"It was like a car," Eatman said. Then safety DeAngelo Smith and linebacker Brandon Williams were able to get it up just enough for Archer to squirm out.

"All I saw was blue jerseys," said Archer, whose right elbow and legs were scraped. "I was trapped; I couldn't move. Then those guys lifted it up -- not very far, but I was able to move from my side to my back. ... Once I got out of there, I looked back and the whole thing was down."

Archer said that as he fled for shelter, other players appeared to be stepping through the debris looking for others in need of help.

In a statement, Jones said the Cowboys had the "deepest appreciation" for the fire, police and medical emergency teams that responded to the scene. He said the team was also grateful to the players and staff members who "acted so quickly and heroically in the face of personal danger" to help.
 
Eatman said one of the swaying lights wound up more than two football fields away.

The giant blue star atop the building lay crumpled on the ground.

Just before the facility was flattened, winds were clocked at 64 mph.

However, National Weather Service meteorologist Gary Woodall said a "microburst" may have pushed the wind beyond 70 mph at the top of the structure.

A microburst also was to blame for a 1985 Delta Airlines crash at nearby Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport that killed 137 people.
 
"The fact that there weren't more injuries is rather miraculous," Woodall said.

The storm knocked out power at team headquarters and splintered trees across the property. Power was out at the team's Valley Ranch headquarters.

Jones, in a TV interview from the Kentucky Derby, said 27 rookies were going through the workout.

"We're lucky no one got electrocuted with all the water in the building," head coach Wade Phillips said. "A couple of players had minor injuries, but they were all right."

Jones toured the site Sunday morning to see the collapsed facility.

The white, tent-like building is large enough to be seen from miles away. It was built in 2003 for Bill Parcells' first season as coach.

The roof is a large air-supported canopy with aluminum frames covering a regulation 100-yard football field. The team was going through the second of three days of workouts for rookie draft picks and free agents.

This was the second of three scheduled days of practices, but Sunday's session was canceled. Players were at Valley Ranch on Sunday morning for a team meeting.

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