A 22-year-old college senior fell to her death in New York while climbing the stairs of an off-limits campus clock tower in the early hours of Sunday, authorities said.
Police said that they were alerted to incident, on the campus of Fordham University in New York City, at about 3:20 a.m., Sunday. Emergency responders arrived to find the woman, Sydney Monfries, lying on the floor of the Keating clock tower with trauma to her head and body.
She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she later died.
According to Sydney Monfries' classmates, “her energy brought together people who may have never met.” The Rose Hill senior passed away on April 14: https://t.co/4aRMq0BExx
— Fordham University (@FordhamNYC) April 15, 2019
Police said that Monfries and her friends were climbing stairs inside the tower when she fell through an opening on one of the landings. The drop was around 30-40 feet, according to the school and news reports.
The newspaper said that climbing the stairs of the clock tower, which is supposed to remain locked on campus, is a “rite of passage” for students who try to touch the bell and take pictures before their graduation.
An article in another campus newspaper, The Fordham Ram, quoted many students who said they had attempted to climb the tower.
“There was a huge spiral staircase going up, and we couldn’t even see the top. Once the door closed behind us, it was pitch black. Halfway up the staircase, there was actually a dark room with only a chair in it so that was pretty scary,” one told the newspaper.
A #PDX native & Fordham University college student has died after NYC police confirm she fell from a bell tower on campus.
— Maggie Vespa KGW (@Maggie_Vespa) April 15, 2019
Gina Vergel, a university spokeswoman, told The Washington Post that the door to the clock tower is always locked and that only facilities and public safety staff should be able to access it.
She said that the university is investigating how the students were able to get into the building where the clock tower is, which she said was locked. This is the first fall inside the clock tower, she said, noting that the university officials have sometimes given tours of the tower to “satisfy students’ curiosity about it, and reduce the likelihood that they would attempt to enter the structure without authorization.”
A dean at the school at the time told the Ram that students were subject to discipline if they were found to have entered the tower.
“Whether a student is expelled for such a violation is always a matter of the circumstances. Over the years, a very small number of students have been found in the area, and the circumstances have usually been simple curiosity,” the dean, Christopher Rodgers said. “As the clock tower is a rather dangerous, and therefore secured area of campus, students would likely face disciplinary action if they entered it.”
The school held a mass for Monfries on Sunday night.
“There are no words sufficient to describe the loss of someone so young and full of promise – and mere weeks from graduation,” the university’s president, the Rev. Joseph McShane, wrote in an email to staff and students.
The school will award Monfries a posthumous bachelor’s degree.
Monfries, of Portland, Oregon, was set to graduate in May with a degree in journalism. According to her social media profiles, she had worked as an intern at InStyle magazine and KGW-TV, an NBC affiliate in Portland. Her Facebook page shows her with friends in different scenes around New York City: eating ice cream, hanging on a rooftop, and at the Pride parade.