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Girls plummet 12 feet after grate collapses

The Brooklyn Paper
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A freak accident in which nearly three dozen female students were injured in a 12−foot fall has prompted area legislators to demand that all schools −− public and private −− hold routine safety inspections of their properties.

“Picking up the phone to find out your child has been hurt at school is a parent’s worst nightmare,” City Councilmember Bill de Blasio said Friday, just hours after ambulances were called to tend to students from Yeshiva Shaare Torah in Kensington, when a simple school photo shoot descended into chaos when half the class fell through a metal grate on the sidewalk.

The students were taking photos outside the school on Ocean Parkway and Church Avenue Friday morning when the grate they were standing on gave way.

Officials said that 32 students fell about 12 feet to the basement, but only two of the children sustained serious injuries. Both suffered broken bones, officials said.

Many of the girls were spared injury because they fell on top of each other, witnesses told reporters.

“We were standing on this thing, and it started shaking and we fell down,” 11−year−old Rachel Lalo, who suffered a small scrape to her chin, told the Daily News. “A lot of the girls were crying. It was very scary.”

While frightening, the entire ordeal was determined to be an accident after a brief investigation.

Officials from the Department of Buildings gave school administrators a violation for failing to maintain the grate after it was determined that the worn−out bolts snapped under the children’s weight.

Yet the Department of Buildings’ revelation reminded both de Blasio and Assemblymember Dov Hikind of the old adage, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.

“[Friday’s accident] is the second time in two weeks where children have been injured from a serious fall at school,” de Blasio explained, adding that a week earlier a girl at another borough school fell through the building’s skylight. “My office is investigating ways we can ensure all schools, public and private, keep children away from potentially dangerous areas and regularly check school grounds so children are not at risk of being injured.”

“Our children, without question, are our most precious resource,” Hikind added. “Parents must be made to feel safe sending their children off to school, while children must feel secure in their school building, classrooms, and play areas.”

Hikind said he is making a widespread call for all public and private schools to routinely inspect railings, grates, fences and school grounds “to ensure everything is in good working order.”

“Our children deserve nothing less,” he said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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