NYU Student Had Been Drinking When He Fell Between Buildings, Sources Say
TRIBECA — The New York University student rescued from a space between two buildings over the weekend had been partying all night before falling from a second-story landing and becoming wedged in the narrow gap, sources said Monday.
Asher Vongtau, 19, who was trapped in the tight space for 36 hours before being rescued, told investigators that he had been drinking Friday night into Saturday morning and fell into the gap between a college dorm at 80 Lafayette St. and the adjacent building, sources said.
He was last seen Saturday morning just before someone pulled a false fire alarm in the building.
Michael Yablon, a fellow student who had been partying with Vongtau before he went missing, said he and friends spent Saturday searching for Vongtau and criticized the university for not joining the effort until the next day.
NYU spokesman John Beckman, however, said that public safety officers started looking about 12:30 a.m. when they first learned Vongtau was missing.
"At NYU, we take reports of missing students seriously, and begin acting on them quickly," he said.
Campus officers searched Vongtau's room, checked his activity on the school's swipe card system and tried to reach out to his phone via calls and texts, Beckman said. The search was delayed initially when students told security officers that he had last been seen leaving Lafayette Hall.
It wasn't until 4:30 p.m. on Sunday that officials were told that Vongtau's shoes were found on the seventh floor of the dorm and told he had been seen headed to the roof.
An officer searched the roof, but found nothing, not even his cellphone, as had been previously reported.
The campus guard continued his search down an internal fire escape, where the officer found an iPhone with Vongtau's photo on the screen, according to the university's account.
He continued to descend the fire escape and eventually heard the student groaning in pain, Beckman said. He called 911 about 5 p.m.
The student told police that he had stepped outside during a party on the 10th floor and got back into the building through a side door that led into an off-limits utility area, sources said. He started climbing up the fire escape, but lost his footing on the second-story landing and fell.
Police and fire rescuers cut a hole in the building next to the dorm and pulled him to safety about 6:20 p.m. on Sunday, officials said.
On Monday afternoon, his mother Habiba Vongtau said that her son was in good spirits at Bellevue Hospital but still a little groggy from the ordeal.