Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Illinois man defies odds in surviving 4-story fall from St. Pete Beach hotel balcony

ST. PETE BEACH — He wanted to show a woman afraid of heights that it was safe to lean over a sixth-floor hotel balcony.

Instead, David Senior, 26, of Joliet, Ill., fell four stories onto a second-floor concrete ledge Tuesday night.

Senior survived and was flown to Bayfront Medical Center, where he was in fair condition Wednesday.

The incident happened about 11:15 p.m. at the Grand Plaza Beach Hotel.

St. Pete Beach Fire Department operations commander Tom Malone said Senior is a fortunate man.

"Fall four floors and land on concrete, and live?" he pondered. "Yeah."

Senior was not a registered guest and "not a spring breaker," said James Kotsopoulos, president of Grand Plaza Resorts Inc., but had met the occupants of the room earlier Tuesday and was visiting with a group of women.

"From the conversation we had with people in the room, (Senior) wanted to impress the young ladies," Kotsopoulos said. "One was concerned about the height, so to sort of tease her he leaned back onto the rail and went over."

St. Pete Beach police Deputy Chief Dean Horianopoulos said that scenario was "certainly possible." He collected two differing accounts of what happened from people in Room 612. One had Senior sitting on the rail, facing toward the room and falling backward. The other had him holding onto the rail from the opposite side, falling back and landing outside Room 214.

"This guy is the luckiest guy in the world. There is no doubt about it," Horianopoulos said. "He's very fortunate he was not killed in this."

Horianopoulos said it appeared alcohol was a factor in the fall. Police also confirmed the integrity of the balcony rail.

Hotel guest Lori Hawkins was in a nearby room on the fourth floor when she heard someone yell: "Don't do it, don't do it."

"I heard this big 'Clump!' I didn't think it was something bad, then I looked out the corner of my hotel," she said. "I'm on the fourth floor and I saw this guy lying there and he started moving."

Hotel staff got onto the ledge — 36 feet below the balcony — through a guest room to keep Senior from falling again, Kotsopoulos said.

Hotel vice president of operations Roxann Vasalakis, who was summoned to the hotel after the fall, said the man was speaking to rescuers and trying to crawl.

Kotsopoulos said the company hasn't had a similar incident in 30 years. There were no complaints about activity in the room before the fall, he said.

The Grand Plaza does not resemble the backdrop for spring break tomfoolery. Older guests strolled onto the beach Wednesday morning as clouds gave way to sun, maintenance workers cleaned the sun deck and families dined with small children in the beachside patio restaurant on which the man landed. Guests described the hotel as "conservative" and intolerant of rowdiness.

It was the second time in two days that someone fell from a Florida balcony and survived.

On Monday, a Texas man fell six stories from a beachside condo balcony in Panama City as he was clowning around for friends and was injured. Police said a chair he was standing on slipped from under him and he went over.

Illinois man defies odds in surviving 4-story fall from St. Pete Beach hotel balcony 03/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 12:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Last steel beam marks construction milestone for Tom and Mary James' museum


    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom and Mary James on Wednesday signed their names to the last steel beam framing the 105-ton stone mesa that will be built at the entrance of the museum that bears their name: the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art.

    The topping-out ceremony of the James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art was held Wednesday morning in downtown St. Petersburg. Mary James (from left), husband Tom and Mayor Rick Kriseman signed the final beam before it was put into place. When finished, the $55 million museum at 100 Central Ave. will hold up to 500 pieces of the couple's 3,000-piece art collection. [Courtesy of James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art]
  2. Florida's school grades improve as educators get the hang of a new system


    Following a trend, Florida's school grades showed strong gains in the third year after the state changed its grading formula and the standardized tests that students take every year.

    After finding out earlier Wednesday that her school went from a low C to an A,  Bear Creek Elementary principal Willette Houston celebrates with her students in the YMCA After School program at the school in St. Petersburg. Houston is giving a high five to rising fifth grader Jonaven Viera. Rising 4th grader Jonathan Cafaro is in foreground with his back to camera. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  3. Tampa Bay woman, 11-year-old boy had sex up to 20 times the year their baby was born, detectives say.


    TAMPA — A woman sexually battered an 11-year-old Brandon boy, got pregnant and raised the baby for three years before a tip led to her arrest, Hillsborough County sheriff's officials said.

    Marissa Mowry, now 25,  had sex as many as 20 times in 2014 with a boy who was 11 when he impregnated her, Hillsborough County detectives allege. [Photo courtesy of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office]
  4. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  5. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]