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MIT student in stable condition after 96-foot fall down inactive chimney

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The MIT freshman who plunged 96 feet down an inactive chimney was in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital yesterday after more than 10 hours of delicate surgery on her wrist and back.

Officials at the MIT Medical Department, who have maintained close contact with doctors at Mass General, said she did not appear to have suffered a head injury, damage to internal organs or significant spinal cord damage. She was breathing on her own, alert and communicating in the Intensive Care Unit.

"This is indeed something of a miracle," said Rosalind H. Williams, MIT's Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. "The outcome could have been much more tragic. Let us give thanks!"

The area of the roof where the incident occurred is above a penthouse, making the plunge to the basement the equivalent of an eight-story fall in the six-story building. The chimney, which was used to ventilate an incinerator, is located in a locked area and enclosed by a four-foot-high chain link fence. It has been inactive for many years.

MIT Campus Police said the student, who is from Pennsylvania, was on the roof with several friends when the accident occurred. One of the friends told police that they went onto the roof to admire the view of the Boston skyline.

The student landed in a pile of soot at about 3:30am Sunday at the foot of the shaft in the basement of the Sloan School of Management, 50 Memorial Drive. She was removed by the Cambridge Fire and Rescue Unit two hours later after they drilled an opening in the wall of the chimney and shoveled through the soot.

Campus Police, who are investigating the incident, said there was no evidence that the students had been drinking alcohol on the roof.

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