Rocky Mount Woman's Death Prompts Review Of Dorm Safety

The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill may install railings on bunk beds in its dorms after a woman fell to her death in her daughter's room last month.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported 49-year-old Donna Sykes of Rocky Mount suffered a fatal head injury when she fell Aug. 20. Officials say Sykes was visiting her 19-year-old daughter, Jesse, who had the room to herself.

Officials did not say how high the bed was, but housing director Larry Hicks says the beds in the room were not elevated before the teen moved in it. Students can set the bed up to 77 inches off the floor to create space.

Hicks says he had gotten 68 requests for bed rails before Sykes' death. Officials say they've had about 75 requests since the death.

He says the school is considering requiring rails on the 8,500 beds.


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  • by to eli Location: unc on Sep 11, 2010 at 10:24 PM
    the daughter has cerebral palsey and the mom was staying with her to assist with getting her books from bookstore early the next morning. Jessie has moved out of the room. btw, she's pre-med on scholarship
  • by Anonymous on Sep 11, 2010 at 02:04 AM
    Marines and other servicemen are taught to sleep in conditions where they are not to move around. It's harsh conditioning and ordinary people without that training don't have that sort of sleep behavior. So what? This isn't a marine base, it's a college.
  • by Barb Location: Simpson on Sep 10, 2010 at 10:53 PM
    So because they are too cheap and feel its unnecessary to install safety rails, this poor woman visiting her daughter fell to her death and that little girl has to stay in that dorm where her mom died, too emotional for me. Plus she will never see her child graduate. So sad. UNC learn your lesson. You charged enough tuition on me to get some rails here and there.
  • by eli Location: farmville on Sep 10, 2010 at 07:46 PM
    I'm sorry for the family's loss, but, speaking as a Mom with kids in College and in dorm rooms and with their beds close to the stars.................what was she doing up there? Where was daughter sleeping. And yes, sad, but true...leave the kids alone when they get into college. Don't sleep with them - you should have given that up with diapers and nursing. Lesson for all of us. Stay out of dorms, very dangerous for anyone over 30. :)
  • by Angela Location: Washington on Sep 10, 2010 at 03:33 PM
    I am sorry about the death of Rocky Mount mother, my prayers are with the family during their time of grief. Some of the dorms do have beds that are elevated high to allow storage underneath the beds for the students belongings. I hope that the school officals will consider housing one students in small dorm rooms and that would probably alleviate the beds being up high to accommodate the need to have storage space in small rooms.
  • by UNC shame on you on Sep 10, 2010 at 01:22 PM
    They loft the beds over 6 feet high, no railings and nobody checks to see if the kids lofted their beds correctly or if they are stable. You should see how some of them wobble all around. They leave 4 pins in a desk to use for lofting. No instructions. Nobody checks to see if it was done properly. August 20 was a move in day. It says the daughter had a private room so there would have been only one bed. Daughter let mom have the bed. You are darn right I would sue if my child gets hurt while there because the university did something stupid like not provide rails for a bed over 6 feet high. They also do not let the kids know rails are available. You have to ask. Totally irresponsible on the schools part. I'm so sorry for what that family is going through.
  • by Formerly O.L.I. Location: ENC on Sep 10, 2010 at 11:42 AM
    Bunkbeds come with railings for a good reason. It's standard equipment; it protects falling out of bed, much like cribs, only for adults. If the student tampered with the school's setup of the beds, the school cannot be sued. Just put stickers on the dorm furniture advising safe setups, and disclaimers if instructions are not followed. It's sad that the Mom died, but an accidental falling should have been obvious if the bed was that high.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 10, 2010 at 11:37 AM
    bunk beds in marine barracks do not have railings
  • by Audra Location: SoCal on Sep 10, 2010 at 11:29 AM
    HUH?: It's not uncommon for people to roll out of bed, especially when it is narrow like a single or twin. You just think less of it when it's a foot and a half drop than when it's several feet. People don't go into a motionless coma when they snooze. You move around all night.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 10, 2010 at 10:28 AM
    Could be sleeping aids, or drinking accident. I don't think a bed would matter in this case. People know the bed is high up when they go to bed. Move the mattress. Its common sense.
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