West Chester student dies after roof fall

A tragic end to Spring Fling has led to discussion about safety measures.

A West Chester student fell to her death at a rooftop party during Spring Fling last week, on the 1900 block of North 18th Street. Such parties have become common in the area, residents report.| ABI REIMOLD / TTN
A West Chester student fell to her death at a rooftop party during Spring Fling last week, on the 1900 block of North 18th Street. Such parties have become common in the area, residents report.| ABI REIMOLD / TTN

It could have been anybody.

That’s how senior adult and organizational development major Kellee Pace described her reaction in the days after 19-year-old Ali Fausnaught’s fatal fall from a third-floor roof last Wednesday.

“It really hits home, because it’s here at Temple, and it’s so relevant to everything that we’re doing,” Pace said. “That could’ve been anybody.”

“Words can’t describe it really. Just a tragedy,” junior biology major Mike Jordan said.

A little more than an hour after Spring Fling festivities wrapped up on Main Campus, Fausnaught, a freshman pyschology major at West Chester University, was killed after she fell into an alleyway between an adjacent building on the 1900 block of North 18th Street. Police arrived on the scene at 5:14 p.m. and the victim was transported to Temple Hospital where she was pronounced dead at 5:51 p.m., Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

A Brownstown, Pa., native, Fausnaught had recently transferred from the University of South Carolina, Pam Sheridan of West Chester University said. Fausnaught’s Facebook page indicates that she attended Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa.

For Dean of Students Stephanie Ives, the incident was devastating.

“Our hearts absolutely go out to Ali’s family and friends and her West Chester community,” Ives said. “Her death was an absolutely horrible tragedy. It’s something you never want to see happen to anyone, so we are truly devastated by it.”

In the immediate aftermath of Fausnaught’s death, the administration is discussing the future of Spring Fling, which some students have labeled as a day to drink.

“It’s just a day that people go crazy,” junior advertising major Kelly Silver said. “I feel like people act like they never drank before, and they drink all day long. And it’s wild.”

“No decisions have been made yet about Spring Fling next year,” Ives said. “The overall concerns about high-risk drinking at this year’s event have provoked a number of discussions about the future of it.”

While the administration weighs suchs decisions, some students, like junior theater major Jacqueline Loro, said Fausnaught’s death might not have an impact on next year’s Spring Fling.

“I feel like it’s probably going to keep [being a big drinking day]. Especially since it’s a year. If we’re just talking Spring Fling, it’s a year down the road, unfortunately. Most people won’t even really be thinking about it.”

From a student safety perspective, officials are looking to landlords to help block roof access from students to prevent this kind of incident from happening in the future. Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said Temple Police are reaching out to try to get landlords to seal roof hatches and prevent access from student tenants.

“We’re trying to get the landlords to check their properties, [and] if they happen to have a rooftop hatch, to make sure it’s secured properly,” Leone said.

“We recommend no one go on the roof,” Leone added. “As far as drinking and rooftops, it’s a horrible mix, it really is. We’re trying to deter it as much as possible.”

When asked whether sentiments will change toward roof parties and Spring Fling, students questioned whether the incident would affect future decisions.

“I don’t know if it’s a thing that can be contained,” Silver said. “The roof thing itself, you can’t control it. Kids do it in their own houses, obviously. I think it’ll kind of change the mood of it a little bit probably.”

“I just think Spring Fling is an on-campus affair that a bunch of clubs get together and try to raise money, promote their club,” Pace said. “It’s been turned into a drinking thing. So I don’t think it’s going to change. Maybe landlords are going to get more strict about accessibility to the roof, but that’s the only thing I could see changing.”

At the time of the incident, roughly 30 to 40 people were on the roof, Small said, and police found a large number of beer cans on the premises. Eight witnesses were taken in for questioning at the time of the incident, though no arrests or alcohol citations had been made at the time of press. Investigators said they believe the cause to be accidental.

Small described the concrete-bottomed alleyway in which the young woman fell as a gruesome scene. In front of the house, the scene was more somber. People were crying in streets and on nearby stoops. Police said that access to the roof was allowed by a construction ladder that was placed on the second floor and led up to the third floor roof through an access hatch. Small said the roof was not furnished, and was not intended for use.

After the incident, police were warning students on nearby rooftops to descend, and that they were not allowed to be drinking on the roof. Still, as the sun set on 18th Street last Wednesday, students celebrating Temple’s annual Spring Fling could be seen on roofs, bottles and cans in hand.

Sean Carlin, John Moritz and Ali Watkins can be reached at news@temple-news.com.

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