Image: Grace Bergere
Kate Milford  /  AP file
Grace Bergere, shown here in 2006, is being treated at a New York City hospital for an injured hip after falling down a chimney shaft.
updated 8/2/2008 3:04:04 PM ET 2008-08-02T19:04:04

A 12-year-old girl fell into a chimney on the roof of her apartment building, plummeted 14 stories down the flue and landed almost unscathed in a pile of furnace soot.

Grace Bergere, a young rock drummer, remained hospitalized Saturday for treatment of an injured hip.

The 2-foot-deep pile of ash and dust may have saved her life, cushioning her fall when she crashed into a basement furnace, fire officials said.

Authorities said Grace was showing a cousin, visiting from California, the spectacular view of the city from the top of her family's West Village apartment building, which has a rooftop deck overlooking the Hudson River.

To get to the highest point Thursday night, she climbed up a 25-foot ladder alongside the big brick chimney. When she reached the top, she fell into the gaping mouth of the chimney and plunged down the narrow flue to the basement.

"I think she probably went down head first and landed on her back," fire Lt. Simon Ressner said.

'It's a miracle'
While her father screamed her name, firefighters opened a metal door at the bottom of the chimney, ready for the worst.

But then Grace's small hand poked out of the soot.

"I just jumped back," Ressner told reporters Friday. "I wasn't expecting anybody alive at the bottom of the shaft, so I was shocked."

When firefighters pulled her out, Grace was completely covered with soot, with only her eyes and mouth visible.

"It's a miracle — it's an absolute miracle," Grace's father, jazz guitarist Steve Berger, said later.

Grace was talking to visitors and watching TV Saturday at Bellevue Hospital Center, but still in pain. She was listed in fair condition.

She has performed with the New York City Opera children's chorus, but apparently finds rock 'n' roll drumming more exciting.

"It's more wild and not angel-like," she said.

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