The video surveillance camera outside the youth hostel on Manhattan’s upper west side captured a truly disturbing image. A young man, naked, except for his brief-style underwear, is plummeting, arms outstretched, from the third floor window. The short tape ends with the young man lying motionless in a concrete courtyard as bystanders rush to his side. Carl Sutton was 23 year old on 19 August 1999 when he fell. It is a medical miracle that he survived the fall. Predictably, Carl remembered nothing about the fall or the events leading up to it. His roommates, with whom he had spent the summer at Camp America in Upstate New York, recall nothing unusual about the hours leading up to the accident. Several of young men, from Europe and the United States, were sharing the hostel room for just one night before continuing home. A few of the guys had drinks before going to sleep that night. It was warm and the windows were open. There were several bunks and bunk beds in the room, and no window guards covered the open window, but it was determined after Carl’s accident, that the status of the room violated no city, state or federal laws. Alcohol was found in Carl’s blood stream, although it is impossible to say that it caused, or contributed to his fall.
Each of my prior blog entries had a connection to Israel or the Jewish people. This one does not, other than the fact that I am Jewish and the family involved in this story has become my dearest friends. I was their attorney in New York, and later, in England, acted as their legal advisor at the Coroner’s Inquest after Carl’s death. They attended my older daughter’s bat mitzah in Connecticut and danced the night away as we enjoyed our simcha together.
Carl was treated at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital for approximately one month following the accident. The first three weeks there, he was in the Intensive Care Unit in a coma. He had sustained a dislocated lower leg, broken arm, damaged optic nerve, collapsed lungs and damaged spleen amongst other horrific injuries. Gradually, he regained strength and function. The New York City Police Department detective assigned to the case, Doris Plaza (retired), nicknamed Carl the “New York Miracle.”
Eventually, Carl was stable enough to return to England with his parents aboard a medical flight, bound for a National Health Service (NHS) facility equipped to care for him and the severity of his remaining injuries. He was initially admitted into a British hospital many miles from where Cath and Raymond lived with Carl and their daughter Tracy in the Northern part of England, a three-hour train ride from London through the English countryside. It soon became apparent that this facility was ill-equipped to handle a case as a complex as Carl’s and he was transferred to Preston Hospital, much closer to home, but no better suited to treat Carl’s massive injuries. Sadly, at Preston Hospital, Carl developed a series of remarkable hemorrhages (bleeds) that finally took his life on 10 October 1999.
A Coroner’s Inquest, a formal legal hearing, probing the details of Carl’s death, was held in the British Court. Raymond questioned the treating consultant (physician), like a seasoned Barrister, with me silently at his side, after hours and hours of painstaking preparation reading every line of the medical records we had acquired at that time. The court was packed with family and well-wishers, many of whom held pictures of Carl aloft, as the consultant defended his treatment of Carl. Those of us in attendance went to a local pub after the hearing and had a pint in Carl’s memory.
Refusing to allow Carl’s senseless death to pass in vain, and wishing to carry on in a more meaningful manner than simply raising a glass for their son, Cath and Raymond, along with Tracy and young daughter Neve, now work tirelessly on a charity that they have established in his memory: Sutty’s Shooting Stars, based in Preston, England. As a passionate supporter of Liverpool football (soccer) and avid player and coach, Sutty’s Shooting Stars is a series of camps, seminars, classes and lessons for young players interested in sport. “Trying to get the kids off the streets,” as Cath is fond of saying.
And nothing would make Carl happier than that.