Community comforts a family and rallies for improved safety measures in apartments.
While a 15-month-old boy was in a hospital bed recovering from an 11-story fall from the family’s apartment balcony, a Minneapolis community united to help the boy’s devastated family and push for changes to prevent a similar tragedy.
Owners of the Riverside Plaza apartments met with community members Tuesday evening to talk about measures to keep small children from opening the patio doors and education measures to help parents keep their children safe. Members of the Somali-American community also agreed to set up a fund for the family, which is distraught over the Sunday accident.
“My brother is terrified,” said Abdirahim Ahmed, who attended the meeting while the boy’s father, Guled Ahmed, sat at the toddler’s hospital bedside, along with his wife, Faduma Abdullahi, the boy’s mother. “I don’t think he will ever be the same.”
“My brother is a good dad,” he said. Guled Ahmed was in his Riverside Plaza apartment, playing with his two children in the living room when he went to the kitchen. Less than a minute later, his 3-year-old daughter ran to him to say “the baby fell.”
Sahra Dayib, Guled Ahmed’s sister, said her brother looked over the balcony railing and saw 15-month-old Musa lying on the ground 11 stories below. He grabbed his daughter and ran down 11 stories of steps to his son, Dayib said.
A security guard ran to the boy, who was conscious. “He was crying,” said Larry Ross, pointing out the balcony he believed Musa fell from and where he landed on a patch of mulch-covered ground, narrowly missing the sidewalk and a large steel box housing electric equipment.
Musa is listed in critical but stable condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, where doctors and others have dubbed him “the miracle baby.” His parents have kept a vigil at the hospital, where Musa faces a tough recovery from severe injuries, including fractures and a concussion.
“We’re just praying that he’s OK,” said Abdirahim Ahmed, who said the lock on the family’s patio door was broken. “This is just the beginning. … Something’s got to be done. Something’s gotta be done,” he told a room full of community members along with the building managers.
Family members and local community activist Abdirizak Bihi agreed no one had come Tuesday to blame anyone for the tragic and unfortunate accident. Although no one can know for sure, family members believe the toddler slipped through the balcony’s railings.
George and Chris Sherman, whose family has owned and managed the 1,303-unit Riverside Plaza apartments since 1988, and city officials said the balcony railings at Riverside are 47 inches high with 5 and 3/8 inch spacings between the stiles. There’s a 4-inch gap between the railing and the balcony’s concrete deck.
Matt Lindstrom, a spokesman for the city, said Riverside Plaza exceeds the state code on balcony railings. State building codes require a balcony railing of at least 42 inches high, and pre-1983 buildings such as the Riverside Plaza are allowed a maximum spacing of 9 inches between the rails.
The code was changed in 1988 from a maximum width of 9 inches to a maximum of 6 inches, said city building official Pat Higgins.
It was changed again in 1994 to 4 inches. The building was updated extensively a few years ago, but none of the renovations touched the balconies, said Higgins. If they had it would have required changes to the balcony railings, he said.
George Sherman said new patio doors, screens and locks were added during the $65 million renovation. On request, the building’s managers provide wood blocks that can be placed in the patio door’s track to prevent the door from being opened. But after Tuesday’s meeting, he said they will look at adding childproof latches above a child’s reach provided fire officials approve.
Offering condolences to Musa and his family, Sherman said his family wants to learn and respond to this tragedy.
After a 23-month-old boy fell out of a window at Riverside Plaza in 1998 and fell six floors to his death, Sherman said the windows were changed so they don’t fully open. Abass Salah had been bouncing on his bed near the window when he knocked out the screen, according to an investigator.
Sherman said another child fell to his death when he fell over a railing.
Community and family members said the accident is a wake-up call to make changes. “There are a lot of people out there with a lot of kids,” Dayib said. “We hope nothing like this happens again.”