Two Students Fall from Residence Hall Window

A UNC student died and another was in critical condition after the two fell out of a third-floor window in Stacy Residence Hall early Friday morning, Feb. 24, 2006.

Sophomore Keith Shawn Smith, 20, a Greensboro native and resident adviser on the third floor of Stacy, died at UNC Hospitals Friday morning. Hospital officials said freshman Tyler Downey, 19, of Asheville, was in critical condition Friday afternoon.

University officials and students in the dorm when the accident occurred – about 12:23 a.m. – said Smith and Downey were racing each other down the third-floor hall. The two crashed through the window at the end of the hall and fell onto a brick ramp outside the laundry room on the basement level of the building.

According to witnesses at the scene, both were breathing but unresponsive when emergency workers arrived.

Sophomore James Dillard lives on Stacy’s second floor. He said he did not see or hear the students fall but was one of more than a dozen onlookers outside of Stacy minutes after the accident.

“When I got outside, they had blankets over them, and at that point I thought that they were already dead,” Dillard said. “Turns out that they were still breathing.”

Based on what he’d been told by a witness to the accident, Dillard said the two students were racing from one end of the hall to the other.

“The doorway [toward the end of the hall] provides a natural bottleneck so there’s a winner,” Dillard said. “And [the witness] said Tyler beat Keith Shawn to the spot. And then Tyler couldn’t stop. He was just a little bit ahead of Keith Shawn. But he went through. And then Keith Shawn didn’t have anything to stop him.”

University officials said the window at the end of the hall was double-paned security glass that began 2½ feet above the floor. Pieces of glass were scattered on the ground outside the building, while most of the glass around the frame of the window remained intact. Workers were removing what was left of the glass Friday afternoon and replacing the window.

“The glass is thick. We have thrown Frisbees into it and balls into it,” Dillard said. “If I’d been in the same situation running at the glass, I’d have expected the glass to catch me.”

No alcohol or drug use appeared to be involved. Grief counselors were on hand to counsel students, friends and families of Smith and Downey.

“The dorm is pretty solemn. A lot of the guys realize it could have been anybody,” Dillard said. “They were just racing, they were just running. A lot of us don’t know what to say or what to do. We have a good time on the hall. Nine times out of 10, we’re laughing. Right now it doesn’t seem appropriate.”

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