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A Tampa apartment balcony is being investigated after toddler's fall

TAMPA — After a toddler fell from a second-floor balcony at the Fredericksburg Apartments on Monday, county inspectors were investigating whether the railing meets building code requirements.

Autumn Butler, 18 months, was playing on the balcony of the apartments on 22nd Street N, just north of 131st Avenue, when she slipped between the concrete railings and fell onto a car below, said the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

She was flown to Tampa General Hospital at 12:15 p.m. where she was in good condition Monday evening with only scratches on her chin, deputies said.

An opening pointed out by a witness as the one Autumn fell through measured 6.5 inches wide.

According to the Florida building code, that would be half an inch too wide, said Dexter Barge, director of Hillsborough County code enforcement. The apartments were built in the late 1970s, when the maximum amount of space between balcony railings was not to exceed 6 inches, Barge said.

Inspectors will be there today, taking their own measurements to see if the balconies meet code, he said.

If not, the owner of the apartment complex must update the railings or could face fines of up to $1,000 a day, he said.

Moments before Autumn fell through the opening, she was playing on the balcony with next-door neighbor Sedrick Coleman's daughters, Coleman, 27, said.

His girls went inside, but Autumn stayed outside. When he went outside, Coleman said, Autumn was trying to climb through the railing — something he had seen her try before.

He said he pulled her away and told her to go home. Then he went back inside and sat down.

Seconds later, he heard a thump.

The toddler fell about 10 to 15 feet onto the trunk of a car before landing on the pavement, the Sheriff's Office said.

At the time of the accident, Coleman said, Autumn's grandmother was babysitting while her mother was at work.

But the grandmother, Alberta Jackson, 56, who also lives with the girl, was distracted by the phone, deputies said.

A preliminary investigation showed the injury was accidental, said sheriff's Sgt. Renato Martinez. No charges are expected.

"If it's a situation where a child can fit (her) head through, then it should probably be looked into for the future," Martinez said.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or srossetter@sptimes.com.

A Tampa apartment balcony is being investigated after toddler's fall 04/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 5, 2010 11:49pm]
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