Fire Escapes Removed from OU Building after Student Death

Among the most frequently handled cases of Oklahoma personal injury lawyers are those involving slip and fall accidents.  Slip and fall accidents commonly fall under the umbrella of premises liability law, which upholds the responsibility of property owners to maintain a premises that is free from unreasonable risk of injury or death.  Oklahoma premises liability attorneys represent accident victims who have been injured on another's property, whether business, private, or public property. Fall accidents can be particularly devastating, resulting in catastrophic injury or death, a fact which has recently become all too clear for students, faculty, and administrators at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  On June 3, 2012, at approximately 2:21 a.m., officers responded to a call about an unresponsive female lying near Evans Hall.  When they arrived, they found 22-year-old student Casey Cooke of Edmond.  Though emergency personnel attempted to revive her, the young woman was dead at the scene.  Though complete details of Ms. Cooke's death have not been released pending an investigation, reports claim that the student was attempting to climb a fire escape onto the roof of Evans Hall when she slipped and fell to her death.  A medical examiner's reports shows that Casey Cooke died of blunt force trauma sustained in the fall. Following Ms. Cooke's death, OU administrators in conjunction with the Norman Fire Department inspected the building's fire escapes and determined that they were a liability.  Upgrades to the building have rendered the fire escapes unnecessary for evacuation in the case of a fire.  Although a small plaque cautioned students to stay off the fire escapes, many students say that they were frequently used by students wishing to gain access to the building's roof.  According to Casey Cooke's uncle, Don Cooke, the student and her sorority sisters often climbed the fire escape to find a "quiet place for reflection." Though many people have stated that students often climbed the fire escapes, campus police show no record of trespassing on fire escapes or the Evans Hall roof prior to Ms. Cooke's death, and the university believes the death was the result of an isolated incident.  According to Brian Ellis, the university's director of facilities management, reports that students frequently climbed the fire escapes were "all news to me when it came out in the press this week.  Whether that was the case or not, I don’t know. I simply took steps to remove the path of access to the roof of Evans Hall. We are going to be watching very closely any further trespass onto the roof of any of our campus buildings."  Ellis says that the fire escapes on two other campus buildings are also being reviewed. Because the fire escapes were no longer necessary and to prevent further student injury or death, the University of Oklahoma decided to remove the fire escapes.  OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop said that officials do not believe the fire escapes were faulty.