Woman dies, man hurt after railing collapses from balcony

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 7, 2015) - A woman was killed and a man was hurt after falling from a balcony when a railing collapsed.

It happened Saturday night on the city's near southeast side behind a home in the 1300 block of East Minnesota St. Police say Denise Dohner, 51, and Lee Church, 51, fell two stories after the railing gave out.

Both were taken to the hospital. Church was later released. Police say Dohner died from her injuries.

Church's nephew, Jason Long, lives in the apartment where the accident happened. He said he was stunned and saddened by the death.

“I just can’t believe it happened. I mean I was in the house when it happened. All I heard was the crash and then I came out," Long said.

Since the accident, a wooden railing has replaced the old one. An investigation is ongoing as to why the railing gave out, but it's believed Dohner and Church were leaning against the railing and it couldn't support the weight of two people.

First responders said while accidents like this are uncommon and tragic, it's important for homeowners to take steps to make sure their balconies and porches are safe for guests.

"Whether it's a rod iron railing or metal railing, you're talking about factors you can't control such as weather, corrosion, possible termites, things that give wear and tear to that railing that may not be visible to the naked eye, but could be visible to the structural integrity of it," explained Indianapolis Fire Department Public Information Officer Rita Reith.

It's not known if the balcony was up to code. First responders recommend homeowners to get yearly inspections on porches or balconies.

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