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Toddler survives fall from second story

The Tampa girl lands on a narrow strip of soil between an asphalt parking lot and a concrete patio.

By MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2000


TAMPA -- A 17-month-old girl survived a fall from a second-floor apartment Friday morning without serious injury when she landed on a sliver of land between an asphalt parking lot and a concrete patio.

Keylonnie Miller was playing on a balcony at the Sherwood Lake Apartments on Tinsley Circle near the University of South Florida when she squeezed through metal bars and fell more than 10 feet. The toddler landed on a narrow stretch of soil less than 3 feet wide.

"That's probably what saved her," said Nilsa Aquino, property manager at the apartment complex. "God forbid she fell on the concrete. That mother is blessed."

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived to find the child breathing. She was taken to Tampa General Hospital for observation and was listed in stable condition.

"She's a tough, strong baby," said a relieved Yumica Patterson, 25, the girl's mother. "They say she does not have any broken bones. It looks like nothing severe. She has a bruise on her cheek."

Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Chris Freeman inspected the balcony and ruled the fall accidental.

"You would not think a child could squeeze through," said Debbie Carter, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. "But apparently, she did."

Shortly after 11 a.m., Patterson said, she was making her daughter some cereal when Keylonnie managed to slip through a nearly 7-inch gap between a railing support bar and the wall. The other bars are separated by about 5 inches.

"We never realized it until she fell through," Patterson said.

Kenya Perkins, a family friend, tried to catch the toddler, but the child slipped away from her grasp and tumbled to the ground.

Errol Jennings, a groundskeeper for the complex, discovered the child in the dirt, lying still and not breathing. Perkins came running out of the apartment. Jennings alerted Aquino.

"I'm still shaken by it," said Aquino, who called emergency workers. "I can imagine how devastated Errol was when he saw the child on the ground. (But) he acted quickly."

Both Perkins and Aquino placed 911 calls. Afterward, Aquino said, she went to check on the family and found that the child was breathing and crying.

Patterson said the hospital asked to keep the girl overnight for observation. She expects to pick her up today.

"It was very fortunate that the baby landed there," said Ray Yeakley, a spokesman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. "Everything was fine. She was breathing."

- Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472 or sandler@sptimes.com.

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