A University of Kentucky cheerleader was seriously injured in Rhode Island on Thursday when he fell 44 feet while teaching a gymnastics class. His father credits his training in tumbling with saving his life.
Dylan Smith, 19, who lives in North Smithfield, R.I., had been tumbling when "he kinda lost his balance" at the end of a series of moves and landed against a door that had been nailed shut, his father, Hugh Smith, said in a telephone interview.
The door, on the fourth or fifth floor of the building, led only to open air. It gave way, and Dylan Smith fell out backward, Hugh Smith said.
He said his son's tumbling instincts kicked in and he turned a back flip during the fall, bringing his knees to his chest as he tried "to find the ground."
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He said Dylan Smith landed on his feet and then lost consciousness.
He has a dislocated hip, a fractured pelvis, a laceration to his spleen, and both his lungs collapsed, Hugh Smith said, but he is recovering well.
"He's a pretty strong kid," Hugh Smith said. "He's very fortunate, very lucky."
Dylan Smith just finished his freshman year at UK, and his Facebook page says he is working as a tumbling coach for Superior Cheer All Stars in Woonsocket, R.I., this summer.
On Monday night, the company's Web page featured a photo of Smith beneath the heading "Our Miracle on Main Street."
He is a pre-med student at UK and is listed among the UK cheerleaders for the 2011-2012 school year.
His father said he is being treated at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence.