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Freshmen Injured in Fall From Rooftop

Student in Fair Condition after Falling Eight Stories down Unused E52 Chimney

By Matthew F. Palmer

An MIT freshman who fell 96 feet down a chimney early Sunday morning was reported to be in fair condition yesterday afternoon at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Injured early Sunday morning, the 18-year-old East Campus resident had been listed in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit after undergoing over 10 hours of surgery to her wrist and back.

“This is indeed something of a miracle,” said Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams in a press release. “The outcome could have been much more tragic.”

The woman, who is from Pennsylvania, was on top of the Sloan School of Management building located at 50 Memorial Drive with two male companions when she accidentally fell down the unused chimney. She fell eight stories from atop the penthouse area of E52 to the basement, where she landed on a pile of soot.

Campus Police received a call at 3:39 Sunday morning from one of the girl’s friends who had been on the roof with her, said Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

Rescue takes two hours

Upon arrival, police found the girl to be injured but conscious and able to talk.“It was difficult to locate her,” Glavin said. “One of the officers was able to speak with her.”

The Cambridge Fire and Rescue Unit drilled a hole in the wall of the chimney and removed the woman two hours later. She was taken to MGH for treatment and did not appear to have suffered major injuries to her head, spinal cord, or internal organs.

The incident is currently under investigation by the Campus Police. Glavin said there are “a range of possibilities” as to why the students might have been on the roof. “We shouldn’t be speculative until we have all the facts,” she said.

The chimney had been used to ventilate an incinerator, but has not been used in many years. It is located in a locked area and is surrounded by a four foot high chain link fence.

Fall may be irresponsible hacking

One speculation is that the student was roof and tunnel hacking. Hacking refers to the MIT tradition of exploring unconventional areas of campus; common hacking destinations include the Building 7 and 10 domes as well as various steam tunnels located beneath the Institute. If the woman was in fact hacking, members of the hacking community say the fall is an unfortunate incident that does not a represent the usually safe practice of hacking.

One hacker said the group that went on the roof over the weekend may have broken many of the long-held guidelines of hacking expeditions. According to the source, the safe traditions of hacking call for travelling in groups, not splitting up, and following common sense. This attention to safety is the reason there have been so few hacking accidents, he said.

Another hacker warned against drawing too many conclusions before all the facts are in.

Other student fell in 1997

In February of 1997, the president of Lambda Chi Alpha, William A. Goodwin ’97, fell four stories down the elevator shaft at his fraternity house breaking a water pipe during his fall. Boston firefighters tore down a wall and rescued Goodwin. He had been drinking before the incident, according to the Boston Police.