Collapse, Chaos and Carnage at Valley Ranch

Collapse, Chaos and Carnage at Valley Ranch
Patrick Michels

It was just last week I was watching The Science Channel's Build It Bigger. The show details modern construction marvels, and this episode zeroed in on Jonestown Coliseum.

"An engineering marvel that will revolutionize the football experience," the host gloated in detailing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' meticulous attention to details. "But there's one thing Jones can't control - some of the world's most dangerous weather."

The new stadium - smack dab in the middle of tornado alley - has a seamless five-layer roof impervious to Hurricane-force winds of up to 115 mph. (Jerry was concerned that last fall's Hurricane Ike ripped the roof off of Houston's Reliant Stadium.) So, whew, that's a relief.

Unless your name is Rich Behm.

Because the Cowboys' indoor practice facility at Valley Ranch couldn't withstand winds of up 70mph, the 33-year-old married father of three children under 8 years old will never walk again. In Saturday's horrific collapse of the structure, Behm's spinal chord was severed, permanently paralyzing him from the waist down.

Behm, who works in the team's scouting department, was the most seriously injured. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis (broken vertebra in his back) and assistant trainer Greg Gaither (broken leg) also remain hosptialized.

Difficult for Behm and his family to hear at a time like this time but, yes, the implosion could have been much worse.

Only about 25 rookie draft picks and free agents were inside during a minicamp. Imagine if it would've been a full-roster workout of 80 players and the accompanying additional staff?

I've been inside that place countless times. Though it was a basically a giant tent, it felt like a building. Safe. Steady. Strong.

But on Saturday, Mother Nature treated it like a balloon.

Slammed by a microburst of 70mph wind, the 85-foot tall structure shriveled and fell like a hot air balloon impaled by a pin. In an instant - witnesses said it the place crumpled just 20 seconds after the lights started swaying - inside became outside. And practice deteriorated into panic.

When the place was built for $2 million in 2003, somehow it wasn't tested for 70mph winds?

I'm certainly not blaming Jones. But, seeing that an investigation is under way by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), someone other than Mother Nature is going to be pinned with ultimate responsibility. Legal, financial and otherwise.

I was on the radio at 105.3 The Fan Saturday when news broke. Seeing the white structure flattened and watching Jason Garrett help Wade Phillips over the debris was surreal.

But for Rich Behm, it will forever be all too real.


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