Family and friends say it’s a “miracle” that a UCT student survived a five-storey plunge on to concrete from her boyfriend’s campus residence.
Jacqueline Hart-Davies, 20, fell five floors from her boyfriend’s flat at UCT’s Leo Marquard Residence.
The second-year commerce student suffered numerous internal and external injuries and is in a critical but stable condition at Vincent Pallotti Hospital. Her injuries include a broken back – in three places – a broken arm, leg and ribs and damage to various organs.
Students living in the residence said yesterday they heard a window smash and a girl scream as Hart-Davies fell from a grating, which gave way as she was standing on it, at about midnight on Thursday night.
While speculation continues about how Hart-Davies fell, her family and boyfriend are in shock and hope she fully recovers.
Her father, Paul Hart-Davies, told the Cape Times it was a “miracle” that his daughter was alive, and said the family was coping well now that she had made it through the most critical phase.
“If all goes well then doctors will start operating on her tomorrow (today). They have removed a kidney and repaired various organs, and hopefully they can start orthopaedic work to repair her ribs, arm, her back in three places and everywhere else,” Hart-Davies said.
When the family arrived at the scene soon after her fall they could not speak to her as she was in “incredible pain”.
“It looked terrible, her leg had snapped off. It was an absolute shock for us to see her just lying on the ground,” he said. Friends of Hart-Davies’s boyfriend, who is a second-year engineering student, said they rushed out after hearing a girl scream.
Three friends, who asked not to be named, spoke to the Cape Times to put speculation and rumours to rest. They said Hart-Davies was a “happy, easy-going girl who was always smiling”. “He (the boyfriend) said he came into the room and she was standing outside the window on this small rail.
“He walked towards her asking what she was doing and she just fell. The rail gave way and she fell and smashed into an open window on a lower floor. The rail is very fragile,” a friend said.
When the group rushed down, two security personnel were already stabilising Hart-Davies. They said Hart-Davies’s boyfriend was too “devastated” and did not want to speak about the fall. “He’s really upset… no one really saw what happened, we just heard the noise. No-one can assume that she jumped but we don’t think so because she fell into another window, and you can’t control what happens when you fall,” a friend said.
Hart-Davies said they were also not sure what had happened apart from hearing that the grating their daughter was standing on gave way. He said her boyfriend had been for trauma counselling.
“He’s a good guy, he’s well-rounded and sensitive and he is very devastated by this,” Hart-Davies said.
UCT spokesperson Pat Lucas said a full investigation into the cause of the fall was under way. “The student was visiting a fellow student. Campus security and emergency services were called and attended to the scene immediately. The student was taken by ambulance to hospital where her condition has been described as critical but stable,” Lucas said.
Hart-Davies said: “It really is a miracle that she survived falling five floors and landing on concrete. It’s amazing that she didn’t injure her neck or spine. She’s really lucky, she’s a strong girl.”
Hart-Davies is expected to first have surgery on her leg and arm, and a hip replacement before operations on her back begin. She was busy writing final exams and had completed three out of four papers.
“She’s a very bright student, so exams aren’t a worry. She’s passed all her subjects very well. The university has been fantastic and assured us that they will look after any academic problems that arise,” Hart-Davies said.
He added that he did not blame the university for the incident, but would look into it at a later stage. “I am not angry, for now I am just concerned about her and we are really grateful for the incredible support from family and friends.”