A teenager miraculously survived with minor injuries after falling 16 storeys from his family's Manukau City apartment through a carpark roof on to a concrete floor.
The 15-year-old was in a stable condition in Middlemore Hospital this morning, four days after the 40m- to 50m-plunge from the top floor of the Proximity Apartments in Amersham Way, near the Westfield Manukau mall.
He is believed to have suffered only a broken wrist, a broken rib, a gouged leg and internal injuries. Medical experts are amazed he was not killed.
The building manager, Jason Epps-Eades, said the carpark roof broke the boy's fall and probably saved his life. "He's going to be okay. It's just incredible that he survived."
The cause of the fall is not yet known and Counties-Manukau police are investigating. Witnesses said the boy might have been playing on the balcony.
One tenant was smoking on his apartment balcony at 9.30pm on Thursday when the teenager fell in front of him. The tenant raised the alarm immediately.
"The sound [of his impact] was probably heard by everyone on that side of the building," said a Proximity Apartments staffer.
"People thought it was a car crash, but when they looked out their windows and saw the body, there was screaming, just screaming, and a whole lot of people coming downstairs."
Housekeeper Kaa Wehi was working on the other side of the apartment complex and dismissed the large crash as the sound of a car misfiring. She thought nothing of it until she saw the teen's family rushing past her.
"The boy's mum ran out of the elevator on the ground floor, shouting, 'Is it my boy? Is it my boy?' God must have been with him. He's got an angel looking after him, that's for sure."
Ms Wehi said the mother had been in bed, leaving the boy to finish his homework on his laptop. "[His parents] are dumb-founded about the whole thing. I saw the family every day - he was a good boy."
The teenager - believed to be an old boy of De La Salle College in Mangere East - crashed through the carpark's steel roof, insulation and metal webbing, which saved him from directly hitting the concrete floor.
He was taken to Middlemore Hospital in a serious condition, but has since stabilised. He is expected to leave hospital this week.
His family were too upset to speak publicly yesterday.
Mr Epps-Eades said the apartment balconies were "very safe", with railings that were chest-high to a tall person.
An intensive care medicine expert said yesterday that it was rare for someone to live if they plunged from more than five storeys, and "freakish" if they survived a fall from 16 storeys.
The boy did not have head injuries, which was the most common cause of death after falling from a height.
The specialist had dealt with one case where a man had fallen eight storeys and survived on "sheer luck".
The key to the Manukau teenager's survival may have been that he avoided falling head-first. An American study of 200 falls showed a person is just as likely to survive a five-storey fall landing feet-first as they are a one-storey fall headfirst.
A New York doctor who had dealt with a high number of falls said in 2008 that the death rate from a three-storey fall was about 50 per cent, but people who had fallen more than 10 storeys almost never survived.
SURVIVING GREAT FALLS
December 2007: Window cleaner Alcides Moreno, 37, survives a 47-storey fall from a Manhattan skyscraper. His scaffolding broke free and he was able to use that as a form of protection as he fell.
May 2008: A 22-year-old Ohio State University student survives after
falling about six storeys from a 10th floor balcony of a Hilton hotel in Florida. He lands safely on a conference centre roof after another balcony helps break his fall.
June 2010: 4-year-old Joey Williams falls six storeys from a Miami apartment building after chasing a balloon over a balcony. He lands in a palm tree.