Local news

Oregon woman catches free-falling 2-year-old

MEDFORD, Ore. – A 2-year-old fell off a three-story downtown Medford building into the arms of a 21-year-old neighbor who may have saved the boy’s life.

“I said: ‘It’s OK, baby; if you fall, I will catch you,’ ” Kristen Beach recounted.

The toddler, whom she called “Freddy,” was unscathed as Beach held fast to his torso during the fall, her knees giving way under his weight Sunday morning.

“I still can’t believe that happened.”

Beach, who has a 2-year-old of her own, was standing outside her apartment building when she heard screams from across the street.

“He was crying when he was up there,” she said. “I could see the tears and the snot running down his face.”

Medford police Sgt. D.J. Graham said the boy was hanging onto a small lip around the edge of the roof. Graham said a single-family residential unit is located inside the building, where the boy’s family lives.

The mother, 22-year-old Amelia Marion Elizabeth Smith, was arrested and charged with two counts of child neglect, two charges of endangering a minor and two charges of endangering. She posted bail Sunday night and was released.

Graham said the toddler was examined by medical personnel and didn’t appear to have suffered any injuries.

He said Medford police and fire officials at the scene couldn’t believe that Beach had the presence of mind to actually catch the toddler.

“It’s amazing,” said Graham said. “The baby was really calm when we arrived on the scene.”

Beach said she was in a bit of a daze when police and fire personnel arrived.

“Everybody kept patting me on the shoulders and saying, ‘You’re my hero,’ ” she said.

The only thing that was damaged in the incident was Beach’s phone, which cracked as it slipped off her shoulder as she was trying to call for help while holding the baby.

When the boy’s mother came out of the building after police arrived, she was very grateful, Beach said.

“She just hugged me and said ‘thank you, thank you,’ ” Beach said.

Beach said she was worried that if something bad happened to the boy during the fall, she could be held responsible.

Beach said she knew the boy didn’t have the strength to pull himself back up onto the roof because she spent about two minutes talking to him while he just hung there.

“I was completely ready,” she said. “But I was terrified.”

After she told him she would catch him, the boy let go.

“I asked if he was hurt, ‘Do you have owies?’ ” she said. “I was crying right along with him.”

When the boy said he wasn’t hurt, he became steadily calmer, Beach remembers.

“I told him he was being very brave,” she said.

Blake said she still can’t believe how long the boy clung to the roof before falling.

Shortly after emergency service providers arrived, the father drove up and went in the ambulance with the boy to the hospital, Blake said.

“If my baby was in the same predicament, I would hope somebody else would do the same thing,” Beach said.

Looking back at the building, she keeps going over the events in her mind, saying that much of it is still a blur.

“And just think, I did it all in my flip-flops,” she said.

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