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Sarasota teen recovering from five-story 'Jackass' leap
By VICKIE CHACHERE | Associated Press Posted May 9, 2003, 5:23 PM EDT
SARASOTA -- Janet Stone wasn't shocked to get a telephone call that one of her son's dangerous stunts had nearly killed him. She was only surprised it didn't happen sooner.
Long before 18-year-old Paul Smith's five-story jump from the roof of a Sarasota condominium ended with him hitting the pool deck and flopping into the pool Tuesday while a friend's video camera rolled, Stone had become accustomed to her only son tempting fate.
She remembers family vacations to the Grand Canyon where he insisted on walking along the edge of cliffs, and to Washington D.C. where he hovered on the edge of the subway platforms as a train came whizzing by. There was the time he came home with his hair singed after he and friends were pretending to be fire blowers by putting lamp oil in their mouths and setting their spit ablaze.
A month before his disastrous leap, the Sarasota sheriff's office called Stone saying her son was jumping off a downtown motel roof into a pool.
``I've been expecting this,'' Stone said Friday at Bayfront Medical Center, where her son was upgraded to fair condition and moved out of the intensive care unit. ``I'm just thrilled he isn't dead.''
Smith broke both legs and an ankle, fractured his pelvis and an arm. Once he's out of his hospital bed, he will spend at least a month in a wheelchair before he can put any weight on his legs, his mother said.
Months, if not longer, of physical therapy will surely follow.
His memory of the stunt comes and goes; Stone is not sure if that's from the pain medication or the trauma his body has sustained. At least three other boys were involved in the stunt and sheriff's officials think a girl who has not been identified was holding the camera. A girl's nervous giggle is heard on the tape after Smith flops into the pool.
The teens may face misdemeanor trespassing charges should the condominium's manager choose to prosecute.
Smith doesn't remember driving his friends to the condominium complex, but does remember his foot slipping as he jumped off the roof and aimed for the pool, she said.
``He told me as soon as he jumped, he knew something wasn't right,'' Stone said. ``He was yelling, 'I'm dead, I'm dead!'''
Stone will spend Mother's Day at his bedside in the cramped hospital room at Bayfront Medical Center. His hospital room is on the fifth floor of the hospital, a fact which takes Stone aback as it hits her how far her son fell.
For Stone, who remains upbeat despite her worry and physical exhaustion of the ordeal, reining in the youngest of her two children has been a long struggle.
``We have taught Paul right from wrong, but we can't lock him up in a room -- as much as we'd like to,'' Stone said.
He is a kid who loved extreme sports and BMX bikes. When he was old enough to drive, the family bought him a beat-up car, knowing he'd add to the dents.
He got kicked out of a high school video class for submitting a tape of him being doused in flammable liquid, being set on fire and jumping into a swimming pool to put out the flames. Last year, Smith dropped out of high school -- where he also got in trouble for streaking at homecoming -- and was recently working for a Tampa pool company.
He was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in the third grade and has been on medication since, she said. A doctor recently suggested Smith begin taking the drug Wellbutrin to curb his thrill seeking, she added.
Smith was also a fan of the MTV show ``Jackass,'' but Smith said she doesn't know if he was copying the show when he jumped off the condominium roof. She is certain that watching it fed her son's appetite danger.
The mother of one other boy involved in the stunt said only the boys are to blame for their actions. Among them, 16-year-old James Zinkard who is struggling with guilt over one of his friends nearly dying while his mother is overwhelmed with her own emotions.
``You're hugging them and wanting to kill them at the same time,'' the boy's mother said, asking her name be withheld to protect the family's shrinking privacy amid the nationwide attention drawn by the stunt.
``You scream, you argue, you cry and you are glad they are alive. You look at the at night when they are sleeping and they don't have broken legs and you are just be glad it wasn't him.'
Stone said she is saddened not just for her son's poor judgment, but that he also allowed his friends to jump and risk their lives.
``He said to me, ``I'm sorry. I'm so stupid,''' Stone said. ``And I say back to him, 'Yes son, you are.'''
-------------------- You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for that my dear friend is the beginning of the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it. ~ Adrian Rogers