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Sydney Morning Herald reporter Matthew Knott was with friends on a Hell’s Kitchen rooftop in mid-June when he decided to head to the bathroom. He walked 10 steps to check the view of the Manhattan skyline and “stepped out onto what I thought was concrete, but found there was nothing under my feet. Suddenly I was free-falling through the night sky, with my back parallel to the ground, like Don Draper in the opening credits of Mad Men. Instead of walking across the roof, I had stepped into an air shaft.”
Matthew wrote about falling five stories, his recovery at Bellevue Hospital, and his return to take a look at the scene of the fall in an article this morning in the Good Weekend Mag in Sydney.
Matthew had traveled up from his home in Washington DC for the 30th birthday party of his friend Peter and had joined a “socially distanced picnic” in Central Park. They took the celebration back to Hell’s Kitchen with a smaller group on Peter’s rooftop.
A trip to the bathroom nearly proved fatal. The quick response of the paramedics (there in 6 minutes) and the fact that Matthew didn’t fall on his head (the key element that separates life and death in these types of New York falls) meant he lived to write his story.
“The next thing I knew I was in agonizing pain. Waves of shock were surging through my body, making it hard to figure out exactly what was hurting the most,” Matthew recalled. “As I stared up into the darkness, I saw my friends peering over the edge and could hear them yelling out my name. Apparently, I was groaning in pain and saying, ‘I’m scared.'”
After his recovery — his injuries included a shattered elbow, broken wrist, dislocated left shoulder, damaged right shoulder, broken rib and acute fractures in seven vertebrae of his upper back — he returned to the rooftop. “In truth, going back up there was terrifying – even in the light of day,” Matthew shared. “My stomach was churning as I stepped out onto the roof. I felt like I could be sick. As I looked down into the air shaft I was taken aback. The fall was further than I recalled.”