By Christopher D. Kirkpatrick
Kit Persiani heard a scream and then saw the unthinkable – his 3-year-old daughter Katie lying 30 feet below after falling from a third-floor lobby at Charlotte's Discovery Place museum.
Katie loves to play hide-and-seek and was behind a brick support column Saturday when she somehow wriggled through a tight space between the column and guardrail.
She survived and has only soreness and bruises, said her 42-year-old father. With his wife out of town, he took his three children to the interactive science museum for an “afternoon with dad.”
As she fell, one of Persiani's sons yelled. The father bolted down the stairs to her. She seemed to lose consciousness for just a moment, and then tears, he said.
“When it happened, I wanted to die. That was my baby girl,” said Persiani, a road engineer who lives in Monroe with his wife and children. “It was like I let her down. Thank the Lord, she's OK.”
She fell from an upper area outside the IMAX theater addition of the museum. There's an elevator and also a spiraling staircase down. A guard rail is meant to keep the public from the falling several stories, said John Mackay, president and chief executive of the museum.
The museum has added a wooden barrier to block off the space between the column and the guard rail, he said. The museum was closed Monday because of the snow storm.
“She must have managed to squeeze herself between the column and the guard rail system … You have to be very tiny,” Mackay said. “We have checked to make sure everything is up to standard.”
The city of Charlotte owns the building and acts as landlord to the nonprofit museum, which has been in operation since 1981 and opened its IMAX theater 10 years later, Mackay said.
The city engineering and building services departments are investigating the accident, said City Engineer Jeb Blackwell.
He said the building is up to code and has passed all of its past inspections, which focus on identifying ripped carpet, poorly lit areas and any other potential hazards to the public.