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Senior at Fordham University Dies in Fall From Clock Tower Just Weeks Before Graduation

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A Fordham University student who fell about 30 feet from inside a clock tower early Sunday has died, school officials said.

Sydney Monfries was climbing the school’s iconic clock tower in Keating Hall about 3 a.m. when the fall occurred on the Bronx, New York, campus of the Jesuit university. The senior, who was critically injured, was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital.

“There are no words sufficient to describe the loss of someone so young and full of promise — and mere weeks from graduation,” university President Joseph M. McShane, said in a statement. “Fordham will confer a bachelor’s degree upon Sydney posthumously, which we will present to her parents at the appropriate time.”

A mass was scheduled to be held for Monfries on Sunday evening at Fordham University Church. Monfries was 22 years old, according to CNN affiliate WABC. Monfries hailed from Portland, Oregon, The Observer, the school newspaper, reported.

According to the university, Monfries had climbed the clock tower with some friends. Police said the group of seniors wanted to get a view of the city skyline, WABC reported.

Students say it has become a rite of passage to climb the tower and snap pictures before graduating, according to The Observer. The tower is off limits to students, according to the university. That’s part of the allure for some students, The Observer reported.

University officials are investigating how the students gained access to the tower. The door to the tower is always locked, and only authorized staff can access the tower, the university said.

The university said authorized school officials “have sometimes given tours of the tower, in part to satisfy students’ curiosity about it, and reduce the likelihood that they would attempt to enter the structure without authorization.”

The tower is the central part of Keating Hall on the university’s Rose Hill campus. Built in the 1930s, the building’s Gothic architecture has featured in several movies, including scenes in “The Exorcist” and “A Beautiful Mind.” The building also serves as the backdrop to commencement ceremonies.

The tower has a clock mechanism and a tank for firefighting water, according to school officials. But there is no bell in the tower, the school said. The sounds of bells tolling are a recording.

“It’s scary, it’s dangerous and I really feel bad for the person,” Emma Azizo, a Fordham student, told WABC. “I don’t think they went up there with the intent thinking that it would be possible to fall.”

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