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Twin Towers resident falls into empty elevator shaft

Published: Thursday, November 7, 2002

Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 15:09

Brandon Rollins, who fell three floors down an elevator shaft Tuesday night, underwent surgery Wednesday at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.

Rollins, a freshman undecided major of Texarkana, Texas, fell from the second floor to the basement of Seminole Twin Towers Residence Hall at about 9:30 p.m., according to Patrick Dixon, director of residence life. He was transported to St. Bernard's Medical Center and later airlifted to UAMS.

Rollins sustained several injuries in the fall, including a broken jaw, broken arm, several facial fractures, missing teeth and a fractured femur.

Representatives of UAMS said Rollins underwent surgery and, as of Wednesday night, Rollins was reported to be in recovery.

Alex Lott, a sophomore undecided major of Jonesboro, heard Rollins fall.

"It sounded like someone was beating on the door from the inside," Lott said. "I thought it was just some guys goofing off in the elevator."

Lott said three unidentified students reached Rollins first, and forced the basement elevator doors open. Emerson Ambulance, the Jonesboro Fire Department and the University Police Department arrived soon after and extricated Rollins from the bottom of the shaft.

All four shafts in the building were temporarily shut down while a contractor for elevator equipment inspected the elevators.

According to Dixon, all of the elevators in Twin were inspected within the last seven days and no problems were found.

On Wednesday, both the northeast shaft, which was involved in the accident, and the southeast shaft were closed. The Thyssen-Krupp Elevator Corporation is currently handling the inspection of the elevators and is working with the UPD to determine how the accident happened, according to a university press release.

Eric Scrudders, general counsel for the company, said the problems were not company-related. "We usually have inspections done on a regular and systematic basis, at least once a month," he said. "Arkansas State University has a maintenance contract with us, and the elevators are continually being looked at."

Scrudders said inspections for the elevators would be held Thursday, and the latest inspection by the company took place Oct. 29.

Representatives of Residence Life said there would also be inspections Thursday from the district supervisor and the Arkansas state elevator inspector.

Dr. Rick Stripling, vice-chancellor of student affairs, said elevator safety is one issue the university will continue to address. "I think the replacement of the elevators always is an option but, the issue there is being able to define and understand what actually made this occur," he said.

Rollins is presently sitting out from the football team to regain his eligibility, but the team is in support of him. Coach Steve Roberts addressed Rollins' situation, during the football press conference Wednesday. "I really don't have much to update on his situation only to request that your prayers and thoughts be with Brandon and his family and certainly ours as a football family. It's a tough situation, and we will do everything we can to make sure Brandon and his family have the support they need to get through this," he said.

Roberts said Rollins is a great young man. "He's a man of strong faith and character, and we're looking forward to him being eligible next year."

Alex Peoples, a sophomore management of information systems major of Texarkana, is a good friend of Rollins. "Brandon is a very caring person," Peoples, who plays defensive back on the football team, said.

"He is nice and always has a smile on his face. He's willing to do good for anybody. He's talked people into staying in school and got them to realize it's better to be in school. He's a really well-rounded person."

Peoples said he found out approximately 10 minutes after the accident while he was in the library.

Other members of the team are also hoping for the best for Rollins. James Hickenbotham, a junior sports management major and wide receiver of Roanoke, Va., said Rollins is definitely a hard worker.

"He's one of our top props," he said. "He's going to go very far in our program, although it depends on how fast it's going to take for him to recover. It's a terrible thing to happen, but he has a real good spirit."

Hickenbotham said he's known Rollins since the beginning of this year. "He's a prop, and I'm part of the normal team, so I don't see him all the time. He's a really nice guy," he said.

He said he found out about Rollins when he was on his way to visit a friend in the hospital. "When I found out I went to the ER (emergency room) to see what was going on with him. I think now he has a broken femur bone, with a rod in his leg, and I don't know if they did anything with his facial injuries," he said.

Rollins is not the first student to fall into an elevator shaft in Twin Towers. According to The Herald archives, on Aug. 22, 1978, Dennis Cumbie fell from the sixth floor to the basement after the elevator car became stuck between the sixth and seventh floors. He sustained a broken femur, three broken toes, a broken ankle, four broken ribs, a broken jaw, broken hard palate of the mouth, a broken hip, broken facial bones and a crushed elbow.

Cumbie, originally of Benton, said he fell on his first day at ASU. "Me and another guy were on the elevator and it stalled between floors," he said. "On a lack of judgment, we decided to crawl out. He made it out safely, but I fell backwards."

Cumbie said he moved back into Twin Towers a year later after he recovered, but was not worried about future problems since he was on the second floor. "I actually lived there for another year," he said. "At the time it (Twin Towers) was one of the newer dorms. I had friends at Delta (Hall) who were the ones living in bad places."

Now living in Versailles, Ky., Cumbie said the problems he sustained in the accident still plague him today. "I've had a lot of surgery in my legs," he said. "I still have problems with my foot and also a lot of knee trouble."

Cumbie said he told his parents not to sue the university after the accident, but has regrets about it now. "Looking back, I should have probably sued," he said.

The Seminole Twin Towers Residence Hall was built in 1968 to house male students at Arkansas State University. This is the third incident to occur at the residence hall this semester. On Oct. 8, a large section of bricks fell, and on Oct. 22, a man working for an independent contracting firm hired to fix the building was hit on the shoulder with another section of bricks.

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