Matthew Gray had barely started his freshman year of college when a terrible accident put him in the hospital.
As The Spokesman-Review reports, Matthew had been a student at Washington State University for only three days when he fell from a window in his dorm room. The two-story fall left the 18-year-old student with skull fractures, head trauma, and other injuries.GoFundMe
Campus police say that Matthew was drinking when he fell, and that alcohol is a major factor in most of the falls at WSU. Students falling from windows, decks, fire escapes, roofs, and the like is not unheard of on the WSU campus.
According to FixtheWindows.org — a campaign set up in the wake of Matthew’s accident — one news station had 10 such falls in its archives. The Spokesman-Review cites “dozens” of falling accidents involving WSU students.
Fix the Windows was created by Matthew’s father, Jim Gray. While Jim acknowledges that his son’s drinking played a role in the accident, he also thinks it shouldn’t matter. Jim believes the problem is in the design of Matthew’s dorm, which was renovated in 2012. He claims that the windows in the building are placed too close to the floor.
The university, however, has a different explanation. WSU Vice President of Marketing and Communications Phil Weiler says the window sills in the dorm are two feet from the floor, but students like to sit on the sill, increasing the chance of falling out. Moreover, the way that students rearrange their dorm furniture could put them at risk.
Weiler explained that many students “loft” their beds or put them on risers. The idea is to create more space under the bed for storage. In Matthew’s room, one of the beds had been placed on “pyramid-shaped stands.” As a result, the mattress on that bed was above the adjacent windowsill. Weiler told the Spokesman-Review:
“I think that may have potentially been a problem that contributed to him falling out of the window.”
Still, Matthew’s father thinks the accident could have been avoided. That’s why he started the campaign demanding better window security at the university. He told the Spokesman-Review:
“People don’t fall out of windows at hotels. People don’t fall out of windows at hospitals. It’s a known problem with a known solution.”
The university is planning to distribute information on window safety, but says fire safety regulations prevent them from putting safety devices on the windows. Weiler told the Spokesman-Review that WSU has looked into possible solutions, but only found devices that would protect toddlers, not college students:
“There may well be a product out there that we haven’t come across. The code is really clear that, if you put something in front of the windows, it has to be able to be removed really easily.”
Matthew remains in a coma at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he has undergone multiple surgeries. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the family’s medical cost.
Jim Gray says his son has a long fight ahead of him, but they are hopeful that he will recover in time. Jim told the Spokesman-Review that he is committed to preventing more accidents like Matthew’s:
“My position is that nobody should be able to accidentally fall out of a window. It shouldn’t be able to happen.”