As school buses dropped off students Friday afternoon at Karmel Village in south Minneapolis, groups of children rushed to the railing on the bridge over the Midtown Greenway, pointing at the spot where two of their small neighbors tumbled off the roof a day earlier.
"They said there was blood!" one boy exclaimed.
Below, in the old railroad trench that's now a popular bikeway and walking path, balloons and stuffed animals marked the area where the two brothers fell some 55 feet onto a patio.
Abdiquni Abdi, age 2, died of multiple blunt force injuries, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner. His younger brother, age 1, is in serious but stable condition and is expected to live, according to Minneapolis police.
Inside the building, friends and family members came to offer support to the parents of the children. A family member declined to be interviewed.
Basim Sabri, owner of the 98-unit apartment building, said he has spent the past two days in the hospital alongside the boys' mother.
The younger boy is recovering from a broken jaw, fractured skull, broken arm and a few broken ribs.
"He's moving good. He's breathing good," said Sabri, who added that relatives are hopeful he won't have brain damage. "We're all trying to comfort the family. They're going through hell."
He said that as a dad of a young son, "It's hard to look at a kid who's helpless, laying there and suffering."
The boys got onto the roof by climbing over a porch wall, according to police and visitors to the family apartment. On the top story of the five-level building, apartments have a door leading to a small outdoor porch. The porches are enclosed by a wall slightly higher than an adult's waist.
The boys were able to climb over the wall, and once they did, there was nothing but an open stretch of flat roof between them and the edge.
Sabri said a shopping cart was left on the family's porch that day and he believes the boys somehow found a way to climb on it, then fell over the balcony and onto the roof. They would've had to walk 20 feet to the edge, with a sheer drop.
"It's a very sad situation," said Sabri, who owns many properties in south Minneapolis. "We're all learning from this."
Nona Champion and Jamar Nelson are with A Mother's Love, a Minneapolis group that offers support to families of victims of violence and tragedy. They visited the grieving family of the boys Friday afternoon.
"They weren't doing well," Champion said. "They were just in mourning. There was a lot of family there."
Nelson said the family had eight children including the boy who died.
Safety effort launched
On Friday, Sabri delivered a letter to each of his tenants explaining what happened and asking them to check their porches for stray items. He also offered to have his company install limiters on doors and windows leading to the porches to prevent them from opening more than 4 inches. He said several residents have already taken him up on the offer.
Sabri's new 113-unit building under construction across the greenway will have its design plan changed to address the porch issue. He claimed he will not rent any of the 26 planned balcony apartments to families with babies.
"This made me dramatically upset," he said. "It personally affected me because I love kids and I'm very close to a lot of those kids. I see them on a daily basis and I enjoy having them. … I want to make the new development kid-friendly and safe."
Sabri says the boys' mother was home at the time of the incident.
"His mom is suffering big-time right now," he said, adding that it would be unfair to blame the mother for the tragedy.
"Everybody could have taken extra measures," he said. "Everyone could have done things differently."
The incident appears to be an accident, and no criminal charges are expected to be filed, said police spokesman John Elder.
There's no indication the tragedy "was caused by anything other than the children themselves," Elder said at a City Hall news conference. At the time of the accident, the children were being cared for by a "credible and capable" adult, he added.
Elder praised the response of three workers in the area who saw the children falling and rushed over to provide aid.
"These people should be considered heroes," he said. "They were working in the area and raced to the children's aid and administered CPR.
"They witnessed something, and instead of freezing up, they acted."
Sabri is not expected to be cited for any code violations, city spokeswoman Sarah McKenzie said. According to McKenzie, City Council President Lisa Bender is "not calling for additional inspections of the building."
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