Child who fell 60 feet at racecourse dies

16-month-old tumbled from press box window at Laurel Park

August 21, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

A 16-month-old boy who tumbled out a window of the press box at Laurel Park racecourse died Thursday night at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The toddler, Adam Teitelbaum of Fairfax Station, Va., fell 60 feet from the open window Thursday afternoon.

"It was a nightmare, just a nightmare," said Clem Florio, the track handicapper and oddsmaker, who was in the press box when the boy fell. "I will hear, for the rest of my life, that voice: `My baby, my baby.' "

The boy's mother, Teresa Teitelbaum, and a male companion were in the press box as guests of a frequent track visitor. Such visitors are frequently allowed into racetrack press boxes for a good view of the races.

Witnesses said the Teitelbaums were in the rear of the press box, near a bank of televisions showing races from around the country. About 3 p.m., when the fifth race was about to begin, the mother picked up her child from his stroller and walked toward an open window that overlooks the track. A waist-high ledge runs inside the window like a seat.

No one saw the woman let the child out of her arms, Florio said, and no one saw the boy fall. They did hear her screaming, "My baby! My baby! My baby! My baby!"

Florio said the woman was running in circles and that he could not calm her until he told her, "If you go down there, your baby's going to want to hear your voice."

He then led her to the elevator, he said, and took her down to the ground floor and out to her son, who had landed on the asphalt track apron in front of the glass-enclosed grandstand.

When they arrived, medical personnel stationed at the track were tending to the child. Medical workers are stationed at the track because of the danger to jockeys. Police said the boy was flown to the hospital. Races were delayed by the MedEvac helicopter that took the child away.

Yesterday, security personnel were restricting admission to the press box.

"We are calling this an accidental death, but we are continuing to investigate it," said police Officer Tom O'Connor. "When the officer interviewed her [the child's mother], she advised that her baby first jumped from her arms and then jumped from the window."

Track officials, who declined to be interviewed, were cooperating with police and encouraging employees with information about the fall to talk to police.

The track also was making arrangements yesterday to bring in a grief counselor for employees of Maryland Jockey Club, which owns the racecourse.

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