Briton survives 15-floor plunge

2013-06-17 10:55

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Wellington - A British man who survived a fall from a 15th-storey apartment balcony in New Zealand was "extraordinarily" lucky to be alive, officials said on Monday.

The 20-year-old, named in local media as Tom Stilwell from the English town of Brighton, was in a stable condition after his plunge in the early hours of Sunday morning, Auckland Central Hospital said.

Police said he was out with friends over the weekend and found he was locked out of his 14th floor flat when he returned home.

He woke a neighbour on the 15th floor, telling her he wanted to clamber down from her balcony onto his own.

The neighbour, Geraldine Bautista, said the man appeared "tipsy" and she allowed him into her apartment, intending to point out to him how foolhardy his plan was.

Instead, she said he immediately tried to lower himself from the balcony and slipped as she tried to grab hold of him.

"I thought I was dreaming. It happened so fast. It happened within seconds," she told the New Zealand Herald. "I couldn't even scream for help."

St John Ambulance medical director Tony Smith said the man's fall was broken by an adjacent roof, although he still dropped 13 storeys.

"From that sort of height you can have injuries to everything and anything," he told the Herald. "Survival from falls of that height are extraordinarily unusual."

Stilwell suffered back and neck fractures as well as internal injuries, a broken wrist and grazes, but was awake and able to laugh about his ordeal, his flatmate Beth Goodwin told Fairfax Media.

"He looks alright," she said, adding that Stillwell could remember nothing about the fall.
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