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Student Dies From Fall While Climbing Fordham University Bell Tower — Weeks Before Graduation

Sydney Monfries, 22, plunged around 40 feet through a stairwell opening. The school plans to honor her with a posthumous bachelor's degree.

By Ethan Harfenist
Keating Hall on the campus of Fordham College at Rose Hill.

A New York City college student died after falling in the school's bell tower, weeks before she was scheduled to graduate.

Sydney Monfries, a 22-year-old senior at Fordham University, died on Sunday after sustaining a fall inside the clock tower of the school's iconic Keating Hall.

"There are no words sufficient to describe the loss of someone so young and full of promise," university president the Rev. Joseph McShane said, as quoted by NBC New York.

Police say it appears a group of students were climbing the stairs of the tower, which is supposed to be off-limits to students, at around 3 a.m. Sunday when Monfries fell through a opening in one of the stairway landings, plunging around 40 feet and striking her head on the ground. 

Emergency responders transported her to St. Barnabas Hospital, where she died later in the day.

Monfries was from Portland, Oregon, according to the Fordham Observer. McShane said the school plans to award her a bachelor's degree posthumously.

The university is investigating how the students gained access to the tower, which an official says is normally locked.

Climbing the tower has become a rite of passage for many students, especially graduating seniors, according to the Observer.

“I think a large part of the reason people want to [climb the tower] so badly is that the school doesn’t allow it,” Patrick Burke, Fordham University Class of 2014, told The Fordham Ram, another of the school’s student newspapers, in 2013. “The thrill of danger is definitely a huge allure to going up. I would say the other two reasons for going up are the amazing view of the entire campus from up there and the ability to brag about doing it.”

Keating Hall, with its gothic architecture, has been featured in films such as "The Exorcist" and "A Beautiful Mind."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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