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Cowboys scout paralyzed after canopy collapse

  • Story Highlights
  • Rich Behm one of three Cowboys staffers seriously hurt Saturday
  • Behm's spinal cord severed by a fractured vertebrae, paralyzing him from waist down
  • Canopy over Dallas Cowboys' practice facility collapsed during thunderstorm
  • Team photographers were up in framework of structure, rode it down, witness says
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(CNN) -- A Dallas Cowboys scouting assistant suffered a broken back and has been permanently paralyzed after the collapse of the team's practice canopy during a heavy thunderstorm, the Cowboys announced Sunday.

An injured person is loaded onto an ambulance after the incident in Irving, Texas.

An aerial view of the scene shows the Dallas Cowboys logo amid the ruins of the indoor practice facility.

Rich Behm, 33, was one of three Cowboys staffers seriously hurt when the storm struck their practice facility Saturday afternoon.

Behm's spinal cord was severed by a fractured vertebrae, paralyzing him from the waist down, the team said in a written statement.

"To the Behm family, we extend our love, comfort and the full support of every person and resource within the organization," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

"Rich is a courageous member of our family and someone for whom we care deeply. We ask for all friends and fans of the Dallas Cowboys to join us in embracing him and his family with their thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time," Jones said.

A total of 12 people were hurt when a severe thunderstorm knocked down the air-supported, metal frame structure that covered the team's practice field. About 70 people, including more than two dozen of the team's rookies, were in the facility when it was blown down.

Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis had a fractured cervical vertebra, while assistant trainer Greg Gaither had two broken bones in his leg, the team said. Video Watch CNN's Don Lemon with update on conditions of those injured in collapse »

A line of heavy thunderstorms was moving through the Dallas area at the time, but no other damage to buildings was reported, said Mike Adams, a dispatcher for the Irving, Texas, Fire Department. Video Watch the roof collapse on players, coaches »

Arnold Payne, a photographer for WFAA, was shooting the Cowboys' practice session Saturday when rain began falling "tremendously hard."

"I noticed the walls started to waver ... and then I noticed that the lights that were hanging from the ceiling started to sway, and it wouldn't stop," Payne told CNN. Shortly after that, he said, "It was as if someone took a stick pin and hit a balloon." Video Watch Payne describe being inside when structure collapsed »


Payne said Cowboys staff photographers were up in the metal framework beneath the canopy to film the practice session and "actually rode the building down with the storm."

"There was nowhere for them to go, and it fell so fast -- it just collapsed as if it was being imploded," Payne said.

CNN's Matt Smith contributed to this report.

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