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Pierce prom mishap becomes viral sensation

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Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 3:52 pm

PIERCE — An incident captured on camera before the Pierce High School prom Saturday has gained national attention.

BuzzFeed, NBC Studios and social media sites have picked up the story of 21 high school students whose pre-prom photo shoot turned into something of a disaster when the footbridge they were standing on overturned into the creek below.

The bejeweled and bedecked teenagers had gathered at the home of fellow schoolmate, Alisha White, to make use of her parents' picturesque property as a backdrop for their keepsake photos.

The shoot turned out to be quite memorable for the students and their respective camera-wielding parents — but probably not in the way they expected.

Andy White, father of Alisha, owns the property about one mile south of Pierce with his wife, Tami. He said his daughter and her friends — and a few parents — had gathered at his home at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday to get photos taken before the teens had to be at prom.

"This (property) used to be an old bed and breakfast a few years back, and a lot of people come out here to take pictures. . . . The old Willow Creek runs through it, and we've got a few bridges out here, so it's kind of scenic. There are just all of these picturesque places," White said.

The students took some photos at the house, White said, and then they decided to have a group shot taken on one of the bridges on his land.

This turned out to be a bad idea.

Moments after all 21 teens had posed on the bridge and a few photos were snapped, White said there was a loud cracking sound and the bridge overturned. The students, decked out in their finery, were unceremoniously dumped into the creek below.

"One of the welds broke on the backside of a beam. The beam just kind of gave way and bent down from all of the weight on it," White said.

The water below the bridge is about four feet deep, he said, so a few of the girls went completely under.

"A lot of the girls ended up just wearing their prom dresses from the year before, and they all still had a really good time, I think,” White said. "Watching the moms jump in to help their girls — some of them before the bridge had even completely turned over — was the funniest thing. The boys were just running for shore."

Luckily, all of the attention can be focused on the rather comical before and after photos as there were no serious injuries, White said.

One student’s foot, however, was wedged between the bridge and the ground, and the bridge had to be lifted off her. X-rays proved negative, White said. Another student received a scratch on his leg.

Tami White said other casualties included two broken iPhones, one lost set of keys, one broken pair of sunglasses, two lost shoes (not a pair), and lots of scratches, bruises, rips and tears.

And, of course, one broken bridge.

Photos of the students just before the bridge overturned and right after it happened hit the Internet almost immediately. One Pierce High School student, Lane Rohrich, tweeted photos of the incident on Sunday afternoon. As of Tuesday afternoon, he had received over 47,000 retweets and over 57,000 favorites.

BuzzFeed.com also picked up the photos for use in an article titled "21 Photos That Prove Prom Season is Actually the Worst." The Pierce students are No. 1 on the list.

On Tuesday, NBC News asked for permission to use photos of the incident, possibly on the "Today" show and other NBC news shows, he said.

Andy White said he specifically remembers what one of the young men said just prior to the bridge dumping the teens into the creek.

"The ironic thing is when the kids were standing on it, one of the kids said, 'Wouldn't it be bad if this thing collapsed?' And then it did."

© 2015 The Norfolk Daily News . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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