IU student Linden Whitt dies after fall from balcony during party

By Abby Tonsing

An Indiana University student died Saturday after she and another IU student fell from a balcony during a party at an apartment early Friday morning.

Linden Whitt, 20, died from spinal cord injuries in her neck at 4:55 p.m. Saturday at IU Health Bloomington Hospital, Monroe County Coroner Nicole Meyer confirmed. No autopsy will be conducted, but results from toxicology tests are pending, Meyer said.

Whitt and 20-year-old Joseph Lao were both taken to the hospital after they fell from a balcony during a party.

Whitt was a sophomore from Mishawaka and her parents were with her at the hospital Saturday, according to university spokesman Mark Land.

She was a 2010 graduate of Penn High School in Mishawaka.

Emergency responders were called to the 1300 block of North Lincoln Street at 2:59 a.m. Friday after a report that two people had fallen from a balcony, according to Bloomington police Lt. Bill Parker.

Witnesses directed police to Whitt, who was lying on the ground near a deck, where the two had fallen an estimated 6 to 8 feet from a balcony at 1385 N. Lincoln St. Police found Lao leaning against a wall underneath a nearby balcony at 1335 N. Lincoln St., according to Capt. Joe Qualters.

Officers supported Whitt’s neck and started CPR as firefighters and medics arrived, Parker said.

One witness told police that Lao had been sitting and leaning against a railing, and that Whitt was standing in front of Lao and leaning against him. This witness reported hearing a crash in the bushes below the deck, and said that nobody knew exactly why the two fell, Parker said.

A second witness told police that no one else was standing near Lao and Whitt at the time of the fall. This witness said Lao lost his balance, and as the two went over the railing, they twisted as though they were attempting to break their fall, Parker said.

Whitt was the first to hit the ground, this male witness told police, and Lao fell on top of her.

He told police that when he went to check on her, she was responsive at first and moved her shoulders.

A third witness, who said that he is certified in CPR, told police that he was inside the apartment during the party at the time of the accident and went downstairs to check on the two injured people. He reported helping Lao get off of Whitt, so he could assist Whitt.

Four police officers took witness statements and interviewed people at the party. Parker could not provide an estimate as to how many people were at the apartment at the time of the gathering.

Lao told officers he had been consuming vodka, Parker said. Police issued no citations at the party.

Hospital officials did not have information on Lao’s condition Saturday afternoon.

Correction:  The balcony that had been shown in photos attached to an earlier version of this story was not where the students fell, but showed where Joseph Lao was moved after the accident. The accident happened nearby, on a lower balcony.


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