A 2-year-old boy who survived a three-story fall Saturday is the third child in the past six months to fall from an upper-story window in the Eagle Ridge Apartments, tenants say.
Caydo Martinez apparently jumped from his bed to a window ledge, lost his balance and pushed out the screen, plunging about 25 feet to land on a patch of rain-soaked grass at the housing complex.
Caydo's mom, Jasmine Pickner, was driving home from work when the babysitter called to tell her what happened.
"It just freaked me out," Pickner said. "I didn't know what to expect coming home."
The ambulance had already left when Pickner arrived at the low-income housing complex, which sits northwest of the intersection of Fifth Street and Catron Boulevard.
"I jumped in my vehicle and took off. I was just screaming at the traffic," Pickner recalled. "When I saw (Caydo), he was conscious. He seemed to be doing OK, just in some pain."
Caydo shattered his left femur when he landed. Tests showed no other broken bones or internal injuries.
It could have been worse. Caydo landed about 2 inches away from rock landscaping below the windows.
But Pickner said she was shocked to learn from an emergency responder that Caydo wasn't the first child to fall at Eagle Ridge.
"We never knew about it," she said.
In fact, tenants say at least two other children have fallen out upper-story windows in the complex's eight buildings in the past six months.
In May, a 3-year-old boy named Aiden fell out a third-story bedroom window. He landed on rocks and bushes, narrowly missing a barbecue grill, and somehow made his way to Julia Hiben's ground-floor apartment.
"He was bleeding all over my patio," Hiben recalled. "His head was cracked open. … He kept saying, 'I fell, I fell, I fell.'"
Not knowing where the boy lived, Hiben and a neighbor took him to the apartment office where the complex manager, Maureen Stevens, called an ambulance. Miraculously Aiden had no broken bones or brain damage, just scrapes and bruises, although he required medical staples to close two skull fractures.
"The doctor said he was really lucky just to be alive," said Aiden's mom, Britney White. "He was back to normal the next day. We were in the hospital and he was just on the go, ready to play."
White said she doesn't know how the accident happened because Aiden was staying with relatives at the time.
The upstairs apartment window has since been fitted with safety locks to prevent future falls, White said.
Hiben said a third child fell out a second-story window about six months ago after being accidentally pushed by a sibling. That child also survived but details weren't available.
Lewis-Kirkeby-Hall Property Management manages the 96-unit apartment complex, which is owned by a group of private investors. Residents must meet income requirements and many receive subsidies from the Pennington County Housing Authority.
Stevens said she could not comment on what happened, but went on to say that the buildings - built in 2007 - are up to code and that facilities such as Eagle Ridge, which receives tax credits for providing affordable housing, are held to strict standards.
During the two years she has lived in Eagle Ridge, Pickner has had window screens blow off during severe storms.
"But I guess I never really put two and two together," she said, to think her children might be able to climb high enough and push hard enough to fall through a screen.
Each building at Eagle Ridge has a bulletin board where management posts notices warning tenants not to prop open entry doors, throw things off their balconies, and other prohibited activity. Pickner said nothing was ever posted about children falling out of windows.
"You can't baby sit 96 units full of people," Stevens said. However, on Tuesday she planned to put notes on each apartment telling parents to watch children closely and not put furniture in front of windows.
"I just hope this does not happen again," she said.
So does the Rapid City Fire Department. Mike Thompson, the department's emergency medical services chief, said city ambulance crews typically receive one or two calls per year involving children falling out of windows.
Because there were reports of previous incidents at Eagle Ridge, Assistant Chief Tim Behlings said the fire department's Prevention Division is investigating.
"We'd like to see if it's a growing issue across the city, and if there are measures that can be taken regarding the code or regarding better safety precautions," he said.
Behlings said city code requires working windows in sleeping rooms on the fourth floor or lower. Trying to limit the falling risk is a double-edged sword, he said, because it could create another hazard if residents can't escape through the window in an emergency.
"It's probably an educational thing with the parents and supervision, and something where property management might be able to help us as well," Behlings said.
Caydo was released from the hospital Monday, but he has a long recovery ahead. He's in a nearly full-body cast that doesn't allow him to sit up straight, walk, or lie down.
The cast won't fit into a wheelchair, so Pickner had to find a wagon big enough for him to ride in.
She's also looking for a new place to live. Her building has no elevator and Caydo's cast makes him too heavy to carry up and down the stairs for the next three months.
It's more than that, though. Both Caydo and his 5-year-old sister, Savannah, were traumatized by what happened and are now terrified to return to the apartment, said Pickner, who's well-known in the area as a champion hoop dancer.
"My son, he can sit there and he can tell you, 'I fell out the window,'" Pickner said, adding that Caydo is also having night terrors. "He says, 'I don't want to live there.'"
Contact Heidi Bell Gease at 394-8419 or email@example.com