Volume 41, Issue 5 - May 2006


Greg Abel, Advocates for Safe Glass,
Gain Local News Coverage

The recent death of a college student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill has brought wired glass to the forefront of the public consciousness yet again, according to Greg Abel, chairperson of the Advocates for Safe Glass.

Abel was interviewed for the local ABC affiliate in Chapel Hill and spoke from both personal experience and from the standpoint of a man on a mission to help educate the public.

In Chapel Hill, Abel met with the ABC News crew, bringing along documentation and videos covering the hazard that wired glass can pose when a human being crashes into it. He toured the campus where Keith Shawn Smith died and Tyler Joseph Ely Downey was injured after they crashed through the window at the end of their dormitory hallway while roughhousing. 

“It was an extremely large single lite of glass 4 feet-long by 6 feet-high. That’s huge—that’s a lot of glass to put on the end of a hallway in a dormitory. It had all the makings of an accident waiting to happen,” said Abel. “Wired glass shouldn’t have been put there, anyway. When I had an opportunity to talk with them, the officials told me this glass was just installed in the 1994-1995 academic year and they put it in thinking they were improving safety.” 

Abel explained that the wired glass window through which the two young men crashed had no mullions or bars across it to prevent the accident, and while mullions have been added to that window, he observed several other dormitory buildings in close proximity that have what he calls identical windows at the end of the hallways with no such safety features. 

“The troubling part is that, in walking around this particular dorm, there are a number of identical dorms that have this same wired glass scenario—they didn’t put mullions up on those. Surely they don’t think that accidents never happen twice,” continued Abel. “If you have recognized the potential hazard, then that’s something that should be carried through to other potential areas where this could occur. The tragic thing is they put another piece of wired glass back in its place. They added to it by adding two mullions across the window, but as far as any conversations about it and applying the same preventative measures on other windows, there was nothing that indicated that was their intention.”

With the news stories that are coming out of the scenario, Abel was gratified to find that the ABC News affiliate wasn’t in a rush to get the story up that night. As he described it, “they’re doing it right.” Not only did they interview him, but also upon reviewing the information he brought, the news crew contacted consultants, members of Congress and others with whom Abel has worked. 

“As they stated, after having seen all this documentation, there’s more to this story than this one tragic event that this one young man lost his life,” Abel said.

Abel said the company hired to remove the broken window told officials at the school that wired glass is not now, nor ever has been, designed to withstand impact, and Abel hopes that the news stories this incident has generated will help spread the truth about what wired glass can and cannot do.

“Any time that you’re able to prevent the potential hazard of an unsafe situation, in this case, wired glass, it gives an opportunity to educate not only code officials and architects but the general public, and make them more aware of something that has been believed for several decades to be a wire-reinforced safety glass,” Abel continued. “That’s the furthest from the truth, even of the manufacturers themselves. So, when you have information and knowledge and tools to make an informed decision if something is safe or not, at least you have all the cards to work with. 

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