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Girl Falls to Death at Friend’s Drunken Driving Party

June 13, 1985

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) _ A 17-year-old girl fell off a second-story balcony and died of a skull fracture Wednesday during a party to celebrate a friend’s scheduled court appearance on drunken driving charges.

Shelly L. Ward, an honor student and cheerleader, was attending a party at an apartment building in the eastern Kansas town when the accident occurred about 12:40 a.m., said Oren Skiles, head of the city’s police department.

She was pronounced dead of a massive skull fracture less than one hour later at a local hospital.

Skiles said witnesses told police Miss Ward had been drinking and that there was ″a keg of beer and some liquor″ at the party. However, police said blood tests showing whether the victim was intoxicated would not be completed until next week.

Mike Fitzgerald, 26, attempted to carry Miss Ward into the apartment when she appeared to be close to falling asleep, Skiles said. He said Fitzgerald apparently lost his balance and both fell over the railing.

Miss Ward fell on her head on a concrete pad about 14 feet below and Fitzgerald fell on a gravel driveway. Fitzgerald was taken to a hospital for observation of possible back and head injuries but later was released.

Authorities said the apartment where the accident occurred was rented in part by 18-year-old Sheila Walker. Ms. Walker told police she was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on a charge of driving while intoxicated ″and that’s why we had the party.″

Karen Lauver, Ottawa Municipal Court clerk, said Ms. Walker’s court appearance was postponed because of the accident.

Although the death was ruled accidental, Skiles said police were investigating possible liquor violations involving juveniles at the party.

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