Page last updated at 21:35 GMT, Saturday, 2 August 2008 22:35 UK

US girl survives 14-storey fall

Undated image of Grace Bergere
Fire-fighters found the girl still lucid after her fall

A 12-year-old girl who fell 14 floors down a chimney in her apartment block in New York was saved by a pile of soot at the bottom.

Grace Bergere suffered only an injured hip after she landed in 2ft (60cm) of soot in the basement furnace of the building in the West Village area.

She had taken a visiting cousin up to the rooftop to admire the view of the Hudson River.

Her father described her survival as an "absolute miracle".

The building's janitor said he was glad he had not had the chimney swept.

Sooty hand

Grace and her cousin went up to the rooftop viewing platform on Thursday night, fire officials said.

To reach the highest point, Grace climbed up a 25ft (7.6m) ladder alongside the large brick chimney.

But when she reached the top, she fell into the chimney and plunged down the narrow flue.

Her cousin alerted emergency services and janitor Angelo Guagenti found himself being woken up by fire-fighters frantically trying to get access to the boiler room.

She was covered in soot. She was black all over
Angelo Guagenti

"I think she probably went down head first and landed on her back," fire Lt Simon Ressner said.

Fire-fighters opened a metal door at the bottom of the chimney, expecting to find her dead.

Instead, they saw Grace's hand poking out of the soot.

"I just jumped back," Lt Ressner told reporters.

"I wasn't expecting anybody alive at the bottom of the shaft, so I was shocked."

"She was covered in soot. She was black all over," Mr Guagenti told the New York Daily News.

The girl's father, Steve Berger, comforted her as she was taken to hospital, where she is being treated for a suspected dislocated hip.

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