FFA officials are keeping in touch this morning with the family and teacher of a 16-year-old Texas student who fell 41 feet at Circle Centre mall.
An FFA spokesperson said that Philip Caler’s condition remained unchanged at Methodist Hospital. His family came from Booker, Texas, to be with him on Thursday night.
Caler is in the city for the National FFA Convention. The spokesperson, Julie Adams, said all of today’s sessions will continue as scheduled, but each will feature a mention of Caler and ask participants to keep him in their thoughts.
Also, the FFA has set up a special Facebook page entitled “Thoughts and Prayers for Phillip Caler” that was growing in membership quickly as word spreads through the nation.
“This group is very close and tightly bonded,” Adams said. “We are hearing from folks who aren’t even at the convention — chapters who were not able to attend, taking the time to post to our Web site and Facebook, letting us know they are praying for Phillip and their family.”
From today’s Star: Teen critical after 41-foot fall
Caler fell from the top of the escalator near the Carson Pirie Scott department store about 2:45 p.m., said Sgt. Paul Thompson, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman.
Phillip was with the Booker, Texas, delegation to the convention, which draws thousands of teens to the city each year.
Dwight Armstrong, FFA chief operating officer, said Thursday night that the next 72 hours will be critical to Phillip’s recovery.
“Counselors have been made available to Phillip’s chapter members to help them deal with the shock of the incident,” Armstrong said in a prepared statement. “The national FFA organization is doing everything possible to assist and comfort his family during this difficult time.”
Thompson said Phillip was thought to be sitting on the railing where it met the moving hand rail for the escalator when he lost his balance. He was talking to at least one other person at the time, but police don’t think anyone else was involved in causing the accident.
Scott Miller, agriculture teacher for the Booker FFA delegation, said Phillip was not horsing around or sitting on the railing when he fell. He said witnesses saw the boy get caught in the moving rail and lifted over the edge.
Walter Wesch, adviser of an FFA chapter in Tucson, Ariz., was at the scene.
“Just shock; everyone was stunned,” he said.
Within seconds, Phillip was surrounded by other convention-goers, Wesch said, and an adult wearing a Booker FFA jacket was at his side almost instantly.
The mall remained open after the accident.
“Clearly the protocol was to help the victim and make sure the emergency people had the proper access and could care for him, but the mall is still open,” said Les Morris, spokesman for Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, the mall’s owner.
Morris said mall security officers are trained to watch for inappropriate behavior and correct it.
“Certainly our prayers and best wishes go out to the victim and his family,” he said.
Phillip’s family flew to Indianapolis from Texas after the accident. Booker is a small town in the Texas Panhandle about 130 miles northeast of Amarillo.
Miller said the other students from Booker are holding up well. The delegation has been comforted by an outpouring of support, he said.
“We want to thank everybody for their support and prayers,” he said.
Scheduled convention activities continued Thursday, but leaders held a moment of reflection and asked members to pray for doctors working to save Phillip’s life, said Julie Adams, FFA director of marketing and communications.
Many of the more than 46,000 FFA members in attendance Thursday were shocked and saddened by the accident.
“It’s kind of scary that something like that could happen when it’s supposed to be a fun weekend,” said Reid Drury, 15, Yuma, Colo. “It’s tragic.”
Morgan Kincheloe, 15, Lincoln, Ill., said the accident cast a solemn mood over the convention.
“It’s horrible to have one of your FFA members hurt,” she said.