Prom Plunge: Pier Gives Way During Group Photo

Wisconsin students drenched on their big night

By DINESH RAMDE
|  Friday, May 11, 2012  |  Updated 1:27 PM CDT
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In this photo provided by Susan Orne, a group of Wisconsin high school students make their way out of the waist-deep water after a pier they were posing for photos prior to their prom collapsed, sending about half of the 18 students on the pier into a lake.

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You could call it a cautionary tale about what can go wrong when high school students exert too much "pier pressure."

A group of Wisconsin students was all ready for their prom, the girls in their elegant gowns and the guys decked out in stylish tuxedos. They decided to pose for group photographs while lined up on a pier that extends over a lake in Oconomowoc, about 30 miles west of Milwaukee.

As the group crowded onto the pier Saturday, one person called out that he just heard two cracking sounds, and everyone else stopped, said Josh Orne, 17, one of the students. Without warning, part of the pier gave way, and about half the students dropped feet-first into the water.

"The girls starting screaming and basically the guys started laughing. Because it took us no time to get ready, and it took them all week to do it," Orne said. "You know, we all realized right away, this is going to be an unbelievable story to tell."

Orne's mother, Sue, was taking pictures at the time, and didn't stop when the pier gave way. One photo shows all the students in a line. The next shows half of them waist-deep in water or supporting themselves on beams while others look on in disbelief.

Josh Orne singled out one mother in particular for her quick actions Jill Leahy immediately jumped into the water and helped pulled students out, he recalled.

The students sloshed toward Leahy's home, where they broke out towels and hair dryers and threw wet clothes into the clothes dryer. Some of them waited for their clothes to dry as much as possible, while others did a hasty job of soaking up the moisture and headed out with their clothes still damp.

All of the students eventually made it to the big event, where news of their adventure quickly spread.

Orne said that in hindsight, he's almost glad it happened.

"Oh, definitely. It's going to be one of those memories where we go to our 50-year reunion and it's like, 'Yeah, we were the people who fell in," he said. "We're going to be able to tell our kids about that. We're going be remembered in camp forever."

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