Local News

UNC Student Still In Fair Condition After Fall

Posted February 26, 2006

— As UNC-Chapel Hill students mourn the death of 20-year-old Keith Shawn Smith, they were encouraged by news that 19-year-old Tyler Downey has been upgraded to fair condition at UNC Hospitals.

Meanwhile, newly released 911 calls reveal the horror that students faced after Smith, a resident assistant in Stacy Dorm, and Downey crashed through the window, falling three floors early Friday morning.

Witnesses immediately called 911, some quickly realizing how helpless the situation was.

"We've just had two people fall three floors out of Stacy Dorm at Chapel Hill University," one caller said.

"What should we do with them? They're bleeding a lot," said another caller.

Davis Bennett was on the second floor when he heard the bodies crash on the concrete. He also dialed 911.

"I just heard a very loud sound, looked outside and saw someone's leg," Bennett said. "I find myself returning to this accident and (shocked) that it actually happened."

He said the dorm is now full of nervous tension and utter disbelief.

"With all guys, you kind of know that we're not always going to do the smartest thing," he said. "But that kind of accident is something I would have never considered."

University officials said Smith and Downey were racing each other down a carpeted hallway. But at the end of the hallway, the stairwell door was propped open where the carpet ended and the tile began.

Investigators believe that when the students suddenly stopped, they slid across the floor, crashing through the window.

Bennett sees the accident as no one's fault, but he does question whether the third floor windows -- which are larger than the windows on the other floors -- played a role in the fall.

Meanwhile, university officials are providing students with counselors to help them cope with their grief. The accident is under investigation.

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