Sunday, May 05, 2002

UK reviewing window safety after deaths

The Associated Press

Boarded window in a UK dorm where two people fell to the deaths Thursday.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        LEXINGTON — The deaths of a University of Kentucky student and the brother of another student have prompted the school to review enforcement of its alcohol ban as well as the safety of older windows.

        University officials and the Fayette County coroner are investigating the deaths of Jeffrey Pfetzer, 19, and Matt Rzepka, 22. The men died early Thursday when they crashed through a window in a third-floor lounge at Kirwan Tower dormitory.

        The men were playfully wrestling in the lounge, then tumbled toward the window, officials said. Alcohol was found in the lounge, officials said, but a toxicology report on the men's blood, to determine whether they were drinking, is not expected for weeks.

Jeff Pfetzer, 19, of Villa Hills, graduated from Covington Catholic High School last year. He was prom king and a soccer player. The school held a memorial service Thursday. (STORY)
        Officials said no safety changes are planned until more answers are found about what happened Thursday.

        Until the investigation ends, UK won't know whether it needs to adjust its no-alcohol policy or replace the older quarter-inch plate glass in many campus windows with stronger, but costlier, tempered glass, UK spokeswoman Mary Margaret Colliver said.

        The lounge window was plate, or “annealed,” glass, installed as Kirwan Tower was built in 1966. UK since has installed sturdier glass as broken windows needed replacement.

        “We believe our windows are safe,” Ms. Colliver said. “They meet all the building codes when the buildings are constructed.”

        Tempered glass is five to six times stronger than annealed glass in terms of absorbing impact, but tempered costs twice as much, according to Lexington commercial glass companies.

        However, tempered glass is a popular choice for safety's sake, said Tony O'Nan, owner of O'Nan Glass. The windows in most tall office buildings are tempered glass, Mr. O'Nan said.

        been tempered, those guys probably would have bounced right off it rather than go through it,” Mr. O'Nan said.

        Owners of some older buildings are reluctant to pay for the replacement of all annealed win dows, so they install horizontal safety bars across the windows to prevent people from going through them, he added.

        The UK lounge window did not have a safety bar.

        UK needs more information about the role alcohol played in the accident — if any — before the school revisits enforcement of its no-alcohol policy, Dean of Students Victor Hazard said. “But I'm sure our policies will be reviewed,” Mr. Hazard said.


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