School Wall Collapses in Storm, Killing 7 N.Y. Pupils

By Lisa Jennings — November 22, 1989 1 min read

Seven elementary students were killed and another 18 injured in Newburgh, N.Y., last week, when high winds caused a wall to collapse in a crowded elementary-school cafeteria.

Officials of the Valley Central School District said children at East Coldenham Elementary School were eating lunch on Nov. 16 when the wall crashed down, burying students in the rubble.

School officials initially believed that a tornado had touched down, but a spokesman for the New York State emergency-management office said no tornado had been confirmed.

He noted, however, that winds in the Newburgh area, about 60 miles north of New York City, were clocked at 90 miles an hour that afternoon.

The same storm system caused severe damage throughout several Southern states, particularly in Alabama, where tornados killed 17 people.

Jones Valley Elementary School in Huntsville, Ala., was razed by a tornado on the evening of Nov. 15, but state officials said no one was in the building at the time.

One person in a car outside the school was injured.

School officials in Newburgh said fire and rescue teams saved several children by pulling them from beneath the crumbled wall.

By 4 P.M., they said, emergency officials had secured the room, and all students were accounted for.

As of late last week, the school had not released the names and ages of the children killed, and officials did not know the conditions of those hospitalized.

Superintendent James Coonan of the Valley Central district visited students at local hospitals late Thursday night and met with parents.

According to a spokesman, the school enrolled 340 children and served grades K through 5.

Officials did not know last week how many students were in the cafeteria at the time of the accident.

Schools throughout the Valley Central district were closed Friday.

A spokesman said state officials planned to assess the damages late last week.

Also, the spokesman said, the district planned to bring in teams of counselors to help students and parents cope in the wake of the accident.

Donald Maurer, a spokesman for the state emergency-management center, said no other serious damage from the storm had been reported in the state.

In New York City, a woman was killed when she was struck by a girder blown off a construction site by the wind.

A version of this article appeared in the November 22, 1989 edition of Education Week as School Wall Collapses in Storm, Killing 7 N.Y. Pupils