Neighbor hops fence, saves girl from two-story plummet

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

Resources on how to prevent window falls

• Legacy Health: The Safety Center, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center atrium, 501 N. Graham St., Portland.

Hours: 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays, or by appointment.

Phone: 503-413-4600.

On the Web:

STOP at 4

Guardian Angel Window Guards

KidCo

Safe Kids

With a shrug and a smile, Nate Forest says he was just in the right place at the right time. Though he concedes that some may wonder if it's something greater, something divine, that put him underneath his neighbor's window ledge, seconds before 4-year-old Brynley Verbeck fell two stories into his arms.

On the morning of Friday, June 7, Forest and his wife, Ginille, were holding a garage sale in the driveway of their home in Battle Ground's Parkview Trails neighborhood, when a scream pierced the cloudless blue sky.

Ginille ran to the backyard, thinking her 5-year-old son who was playing outside with the neighbor boy got hurt. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Brynley dangling from a second-

story window of the house next door, holding on by one hand.

Ginille's screams prompted Nathan to run over. He scaled the six-foot fence separating the yards, splintering one of its pickets, and stood underneath the window.

"Honestly, that part was so fast, I don't remember it," he said.

Nate asked Brynley to let go. She said "no." Seconds later, she lost her grip and Nate caught her as he bent into a squat to soften the impact of the fall. Brynley was so hysterical, he thought she might have hit the side of the house on the way down, but she didn't have a single scratch.

During the whole commotion, Brynley's mother, Jen, was in the shower with two fans running.

"You cannot hear anything," Jen said.

She normally showers at night, to keep an eye on her three kids, but had an appointment at noon. Brynley wasn't allowed to go outside until she finished showering. When the dog started howling, Jen sensed something was wrong, yelled for Brynley and ran downstairs to find everyone in the front yard.

They surmise the squirmy 4-year-old was sitting on the window sill, leaning against the screen, before she fell. She somehow finagled both locks on the window.

"She is our little daredevil," Jen said. "She's always into something."

With cottonwood trees in the backyard that stir up allergies, the Verbecks never actually open their windows. The family is looking into getting an additional safety device installed on the window, but Brynley doesn't go near it anymore and still remembers the "scary" incident.

Jen is incredibly thankful that Nate was quick on his feet.

The rescue was merely instinct, he said. "Anyone would try to catch a falling child."

On a typical Friday morning, Nate would have been working at his personal training studio in downtown Vancouver, but because his wife was holding a garage sale, he happened to be home. If he was out of shape, Nate said, he couldn't have gotten over the fence that quickly. He might have been too late.

A former volunteer firefighter with the Vancouver Fire Department with his emergency medical technician certification, Nate has plenty of experience with traumatic situations.

"When something like that happens, I don't panic."

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops;patty.hastings@columbian.com.