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Authorities: 14 Hurt In Ceiling Collapse At Rahway Church

RAHWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A ceiling collapse at a New Jersey church sent worshippers running for the exits on Easter Sunday.

Fourteen people were treated at local hospitals following the incident at the Korean Union United Methodist Church at 446 West Grand Ave. in Rahway.

Thirteen people had minor injuries, while one was considered to have serious but non-life threatening injuries with a 4-inch gash to the head, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported.

Nelson Alfaro was right next to his sister when it happened. He said debris landed on her head, causing the serious injury.

Authorities: 14 Hurt In Ceiling Collapse At Rahway Church

Churchgoers with the Manantial de Vida Pentecostal congregation, which rents out the space, were in the middle of a song at around 2 p.m. when they heard a cracking sound from above, witnesses said.

"We saw the ceiling going down. Well not going down, but collapsing," one parishioner told Smith. "But we didn't think it would actually fall."

But an instant later, at least a 30-square-foot section of plaster came raining down, causing people to scream and run for cover, Smith reported.

"It just fell, the roof fell," said another parishioner.

"I tried to get out and landed against a wall immediately, but the rest of the roof came down," Ronald told 1010 WINS' Roger Stern.

Authorities: 14 Hurt In Ceiling Collapse At Rahway Church

Fire and rescue crews raced to the scene. The investigation of what caused the collapse is ongoing.

The Rahway police chief told Smith it was a miracle no one was killed or more seriously injured.

"Nobody was killed, so, maybe being on Easter Sunday we got a little help from God on this one," said Police Chief John Rodger.

The church's pastor said those who escaped without injury scrambled under the seating.

"Most of the people got saved because they went under the benches mostly," Pastor Cesar Caceres said.

The church, a landmark on West Grand Avenue for about 150 years, was evacuated and the area has been cordoned off with yellow tape.

Cell phone video of the aftermath shows a giant hole in the ceiling, exposing the church's rafters, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

Meanwhile down below, the pews are buried in an avalanche of lumber, plaster and tin.

After touring the damage, Rahway Mayor Samson Steinman said he's amazed everyone survived.

"It's a miracle that nobody was killed," he said.

Congregants stood outside watching the aftermath in their Sunday best, some crying, Smith reported.

Isabel Posa showed CBS2 her bandaged hand. She said she was protecting her grandson when her arm and hand were struck.

"She protected me," the boy said.

There is still no word yet on what caused the ceiling to collapse or how long the church will be off limits as the investigation continues.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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