PANAMA CITY BEACH, FL- Thousands of college students will be arriving in Panama City Beach in about a month for spring break. Many of those spring breakers will be drinking, and unfortunately some could fall off of balconies as a result of poor decisions.
Spring breakers bring in a lot of business for the area, but they can also bring tragedy. As we've seen in the past, alcohol and balconies don't mix
Some of the spring breakers who come to Panama City Beach leave their good judgment at home.
"Sometimes it's kids not thinking that it's a dangerous thing to do," Panama City Beach Police Chief Robert Harding said. "They want to go see one of their buddies up stairs or downstairs, and instead of taking the elevator they think they can just hop over the balcony and hop down a floor. And all it takes is a split second for it to turn into a tragedy."
State code requires hotel and condo balconies to be at least 42 inches high, with a maximum of 4-inch spaces between bars.
But Harding says it's not the regulations that are causing the problems.
"On the majority of them during spring break it's alcohol unfortunately. All of these falls and totally preventable. If these kids would not horse around on these balconies. Not lean over these balconies, definitely not climb from one balcony to the other."
Such was the case of Matt James, a 17-year old Cincinnati, Ohio high school student who signed a football scholarship with Notre Dame.
Police say the 6-foot-8-inch senior was intoxicated, leaned over a balcony railing, and lost his balance. He fell 5 floors to his death.
Local hotel management says it places extra emphasis on balcony safety during spring break.
"For spring break itself we actually provide a good deal of training and a good deal of security during the month of March just for spring break. Obviously with the additional number of kids in house, and other things it's very important that they see that we have a presence, they see that they're being watched, and that they know that they're going to get caught if they try to do something like that," said Holiday Inn Resort Marketing Director Phillip Colvin.
The first big spring break crowd arrives March 5th, when students from more than 100 Colleges and Universities, including Florida and Florida State, will be on break.