Teen's grandmother says he was lucky to survive fall through gym skylight

19-year-old crashed 40 feet from Buchholz High roof onto wrestling mat

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The grandmother of a 19-year-old who fell through the skylight of a high school gymnasium on Friday said it's a miracle the teen survived the 40-foot fall.

Chadd Shanks was taken to UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville after the four-story fall inside the Buchholz High School gym during a district wrestling tournament.

Friends said Shanks and several other teens were on the gym roof filming a music video. A blue tarp could be seen covering the damaged skylight in video captured by Sky4.

A woman recording her son competing in the wrestling tournament Friday night captured the scary moment on cellphone video as Shanks tumbled through the skylight and slammed into the floor as debris from the ceiling scattered on people nearby.

Shanks' grandmother, Bonnie Lowe, said the teen endured a six-hour surgery on his back, and he's able to move his legs as he continues to recover.

“I feel very grateful,” Lowe said. “It didn’t have to be this good. It could have been worse, so I’m very grateful, and I am looking forward to a full recovery.”

Lowe said this has been a learning experience for Shanks, who police said will be charged with trespassing on school grounds, along with the other teens involved, because they were on campus after hours without permission.

“The first thing that he said was, 'I will definitely make better decisions than the one that I just made.' But I didn’t beat him up, you know. I’m just really grateful that he is alive,” Lowe said. “I think God for protecting him throughout the fall and for the paramedics.”

The debris from the roof that came crashing down with Shanks injured a Fleming Island wrestler and an assistant coach, but they are OK. The coach said it was lucky Shanks hit the wrestling mat and not the bare floor.

Lowe said she feels awful and hopes those who were hurt will accept her family’s apology.

“I know there were other people that were slightly injured as things fell out of the roof of the building. As a grandmother, I would like to say I apologize,” Lowe said. “Our children -- we can guide them, raise them and teach them things, but when you set them free, they do things sometimes that are not connected to you, so I do apologize. I hope that there is no serious injuries.”

Among those facing misdemeanor trespassing charges are two 18-year-olds -- Kieran Sexton and Brycyn White, a former Buccholz High student -- two 17-year-olds and two 16-year-olds, according to police. Three of those involved are Buchholz High students, two are charter school students and one is a Gainesville High student, police said.

Friends said the three Buchholz students involved have been suspended.

Jackie Johnson, Alachua County director of communications, said the gates were open on campus Friday because of the wrestling event. She said facility staff members are exploring ways to make roof access off limits to everyone except school maintenance personnel.

About the Authors: