BESSEMER CITY, N.C. — Three horses are dead after a Gaston County farm's open-air arena collapsed during Sunday night's snowstorm.

The structure, located at Sunnyside Farms outside Bessemer City, held rodeos and competitions for several years, but family members of the owners said it failed in just seconds.

David Cole lives next door; his in-laws own the farm. He said he started hearing unusual sounds around 11 p.m. Sunday.

"It just sounded like distant thunder and banging," he recalled.

Cole said the heavy weight of Sunday's snow likely caused the open-air arena's I-beams to collapse, which killed three of their horses inside: Honey, Babydoll, and Peyton.

Cole said a fourth horse escaped unharmed.

"[I] cared for them. I'd have to put Peyton up for the night for the past several months," Cole said. "Fed some of them bread for 10 years."

Cole said the farm will likely remain closed as debris is cleaned up, and the family decides whether to rebuild the arena.

Follow WFMY News 2 on Facebook and Twitter

► Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WFMY News 2 App: Apple Users, Android Users