High-Rise Safety a Concern After Student Falls to Death

By Mallory Lane

Published 11/18 2013 05:51PM

Updated 11/18 2013 06:05PM

STATE COLLEGE, CENTRE COUNTY - 20 year-old Penn State student, Conor MacMannis, died Saturday after falling from a 9th floor balcony of the Penn Tower apartment complex in State College.

Police are still awaiting toxicology reports, but say an initial investigation shows drugs and alcohol were a factor.

Since Saturday, several questions have come up regarding the safety of these high-rise apartment complexes and whether or not they should be closed off.

Some members of the State College Borough Council say it's time to step up to see what, if anything, can be done to make changes so more tragedies, like MacMannis' death don't happen again.

In the six years Peter Morris has worked for the State College Borough, he's never seen anything like this.

"It's such an unimaginable tragedy. I can't imagine what the parents are going through," he said.

Another student died earlier this year in April, after jumping from a high-rise apartment downtown. It's a conversation Morris recalls coming up in the past, and he says it's one that needs to come up again.

"One of the things we probably need to do is search for solutions that other places have found, if they have found any," he said. "I'm willing to consider anything."

State College Police Officer Mark Argiro is wary. "Screening off the balconies has been proposed, but people are paying rent for those amenities," he said. "It's been weighed by borough council. I don't believe an incident like this will begin that impetus again."

"It's something we've had concerns with for a while," Penn State sophomore, Bradley Arndt, said.

Arndt says something has to happen.

"Any time we have people over to hang out, we always slide the couch over and close up the balcony and lock it," he said. "It's definitely a realistic concern."

It's a topic Arndt says comes up a lot among his fellow peers, especially because he, too, lives in a high-rise downtown.

"I think a lot of people want to watch their own backs, as well as protecting the people who come into their apartment," he said.

Morris says the borough council can only do so much to make changes to the current buildings downtown without the consent of the building owners. He says making any changes is going to be hard to do.

"It's going to be a hard thing to do anything about it. It may not be possible to solve it completely," he said. "We have to try. We have to try something."

Representatives from Associated Realty Property Management in State College say they have no plans to seal off any balconies in their apartment complexes. They say the balconies are up to code and it's up to the individual student to be in charge of his/her own safety.

Morris is planning to bring the issues up Monday night at the borough council meeting.

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