When 12 year old Grace Bergere took her cousin that was visiting from California up to the rooftop of the apartment building that she lived in with her parents to show her the view of the Hudson River, I am sure she never anticipated what was about to happen to her next.

Grace wanted to see the view from the highest point on the rooftop so she climbed up a 25 ft ladder on the side of a large brick chimney. Once she reached the top she apparently lost her balance and fell down the narrow flue. She landed at the bottom in 2 ft of soot in the basement of the furnace of the building.

The janitor of the building, Angelo Guagenti, woke up with firefighters trying to get access to the boiler room after the cousin went called for help. He made a statement saying he sure was glad he hadn’t had the chimney swept, because it possibly was what helped cushion her fall.

They opened a metal door at the bottom of the chimney and expected to find the girl down there dead. Instead when they opened the door they found her hand poking out of the soot. Fire-fighter Lt. Simon Ressner told reporters, “I just jumped back. I wasn’t expecting anybody alive at the bottom of the shaft, so I was shocked.”

She was covered in the soot and was having trouble breathing and was in pain but she was able to talk to the rescuers. Her father Steve Berger said Friday, “It’s a miracle. It’s an absolute miracle.”

They took Grace to Bellevue Hospital and she was treated with a broken hip and trauma. A family friend, who asked not to be identified, said amazingly there were no internal injuries. She also got a neck brace just as a precaution. “Her limbs are still black from the soot,” he said. “She’s in a lot of pain but she’s a spunky little girl and she’s going to pull through.”

The employees at the Westbeth Apartments said that all residents in the building have access to the rooftop of the building which is supposed to be locked by 10 pm every night. It was not clear just how Grace managed to get up on the roof officials said.

Jan Barrett

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