Man, 25, falls to his death from 3rd floor balcony at Kalahri

Zoe Greszler • Updated Apr 13, 2017 at 12:40 AM

SANDUSKY — A young man fell to his death from a third-story balcony at Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center on Tuesday morning.

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call at 10:28 a.m. from an individual reporting a man had fallen from room 3239 balcony to the ground below.

Two deputies and the Huron Fire Department responded to find Derek Alexander Vancleave, 25, of Chesapeake, Va., had fallen from a third-floor guest-room balcony, landing on the concrete sidewalk below, authorities said. He sustained “very serious head injuries” and firefighters transported him to Firelands Regional Medical Center.

The balcony was 27.4 feet from the ground, with the railing being 3.8 feet high.

Vancleave, the son of James and Leslie Vancleave, was pronounced dead “shorty after arriving” at the hospital, Sheriff Paul Sigsworth said. 

The room was in the east wing on the southeast side of the building.

Vancleave was in a guest in a room with members of his immediate and extended family at the time of his fall, Sigsworth said.

“Derek was wearing pajama pants and no shirt. Initially it appeared that Derek had fallen from a balcony and landed on a concrete sidewalk below. Derek had sustained obvious head trauma as a result of the fall,” according to the report. 

“According to James (the father), he left their room to get a luggage cart. ... to leave the resort. James advised that he returned to the room, and learned what had happened to Derek.”

Leslie said her son was asleep on the bed when she last saw him as she finished packing in the attached family room. When she went to checked on him a short time later, she found he was no longer on the bed. The mother told officers she went outside on the balcony when she could not find Derek inside the room and saw him lying on the ground below.

Derek’s parents told deputies their son was hit by a truck when he was 14 years old and sustained “massive head trauma as a result, and has since required full-time care.”

As a result, the couple said “Derek makes poor choices, is very impulsive, and has a tendency to overreact to certain environmental stimuli like sounds and smells.”

They told deputies of an event about five years ago where Derek tried to jump out of a moving vehicle because “he did not like a certain smell inside the car.” The father thought it could have been a possibility Derek had left the room to escape the smell of food his brother had burned in the microwave.

On Tuesday, a bowl of burnt macaroni was found under a chair on the balcony where Derek had previously been.

His parents couldn’t think of any other reason why Derek would have gone outside.

Sigsworth said there were witnesses to tragic event, Heidy Samuelson and Gregory Anderson, of Jamestown, NY and Samuelson saw the fall their first-floor room.

“(They saw him) hit a pillar around his stomach and leg area,” the report said.

“He continued falling to the ground and landed on his face. Gregory stated he had his back to the incident, but heard what he described as a loud noise. Gregory turned, observing Derek lying face down on the sidewalk in front of room 1239.”

The investigation remains ongoing, as the cause is still unknown.

“That’s still part of the ongoing investigation,” Sigsworth said. “There’s no indication at this point of any foul play and there was no indication drugs or alcohol played a part either. It doesn’t appear anyone else was involved at all.”

It is unknown if the man was attempting to take his own life. 

Sigsworth was asked if there a lack in precautionary safety features.

“Not at all,” he said. “There were railings in place to prevent anything from happening. And if you think about it, thousands and thousands of people visit (Kalahari) every year. I don’t know of any other situation like this ever here.” 

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