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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, November 21, 2004

Four year old dies in fall from 8th floor lanai

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

MO'ILI'ILI — A 4-year-old boy died last night after falling eight floors from the lanai of his family's condominium on Kuilei Street.

Bonnie Matsumoto, a nurse who lives on the second floor of the same building, was outside talking to her daughter when she heard a thud.

"I didn't know what it was," said Matsumoto. "And then the father came running down. He was yelling, 'My son fell off the balcony! My son fell off the balcony!' "

Matsumoto said she helped him look and they found the child behind the building.

"He was bleeding, but he had a pulse and I had the father do CPR," she said.

"But he was pretty bad."

Then the ambulance came and the paramedics took over, she said.

"A half an hour later the mother drove up with her friend, and it was awful. It was very bad," said Matsumoto.

Deadly falls

Falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury for children. In 2001, 121 children ages 14 and under died from unintentional falls. Children ages 4 and under accounted for 45 percent of that total.

Source: National Safe Kids CampaignSource: State Department of Health

It was the second such death in Honolulu in four months and the eighth in Hawai'i since 1991 involving children 4 or younger. All eight deaths occurred on O'ahu.

Matsumoto's daughter called 911, and police, firefighters and Emergency Medical Services workers responded to Hono Hale Towers, 2648 Kuilei, shortly after 7:30 p.m.

The boy was rushed to The Queen's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. His name was not released.

Late last night, police cars sat up and down the street outside the 12-story Hono Hale Towers, and officers were inside the eighth-floor condo, examining the lanai and something that leaned against the railing.

Yellow police tape blocked the part of the parking lot below the condo.

Lanai safety

Here are tips for parents of small children who live in high-rises:

Make sure there is no furniture on the lanai that a child could climb.

If the balcony railing is picketed, make sure the openings between the pickets are no more than 2 inches apart, which is no wider than a small fist.

Cover and lock windows within a toddler's reach with grilles or child-proof screens.

Always supervise children when they are on the lanai.

The best way to make sure nothing happens is to lock the balcony door.

Source: State Department of Health

Resident manager Joven Salcedo said he would often see the boy and his family swimming at the complex's swimming pool.

Matsumoto said the boy was everything to his father.

"That boy is his life," she said. "He took him swimming every morning. He walked him. He talked Thai to him. He just loved that boy."

A knot of people stood outside the door to the building, talking.

A neighbor standing across the street from Hono Hale Towers said he knew the dead boy.

"I can't talk about it right now. I was just at my son's birthday party," the man said, nodding toward the complex's swimming pool.

It was not quite four months ago that Exodus Berger, 2, died after climbing onto a metal storage rack and falling from a 14th-floor balcony at his mother's apartment on University Avenue.

His Aug. 8 death was the first caused by a fall from a high-rise involving a child age 4 or younger since March 1999, according to the state Department of Health's Injury Prevention Program.

After Exodus Berger's death, Eric Tash, manager of the Injury Prevention Program, warned of the importance of keeping lanais safe.

"For lanais especially, it is important to make sure that kids can't climb up the railing," said Tash.

Matsumoto said she didn't think she would be able to sleep tonight.

"I'm in shock," she said.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.