A 19-year-old Kent State student tumbled to her death early Saturday morning in the decayed shell of a former manufacturing plant.
Adrienne Ryba, her high school sweetheart and another couple walked across an elevated concrete walkway and climbed a fire escape to reach the roof of the former Atlantic Foundry on Annadale Avenue in Akron. There tragedy ensued.
“They wanted to see the lights of the city and the meteor shower,” said Ryba’s mother, Jennifer, a chemist at Goodyear who lives in Wadsworth. “Teenagers do crazy things like that. You think you’re invincible when you’re a teenager.”
The manufacturing plant east of state Route 8 once housed the thriving Atlantic Foundry.
Since 1905, the company had employed as many as 450 in the manufacture of iron castings for the rubber, steel, automotive and mining industries in Akron. It closed in 1989.
The current owner is Beaver Street Investments, Inc. and the only occupant is Ohio Knife and Grinding, which makes machine knives for the plastic industry. A message was left seeking comment from Ohio Knife officials.
Most of the plant is a skeleton of its former self with broken windows, rusting machinery in the yard and weeds.
Chain-link fence and barbed wire surround the property bordered by Annadale Avenue to the west and Beaver Street to the east, so Ryba, her boyfriend Collin Butler and their friends used an alternate entry — crossing a crumbling concrete walkway over Annadale to reach the industrial complex, Akron police said.
The skywalk led to an outside fire escape, which in turn led to the roof.
Theirs was not a new idea; others had been there before them, as graffiti was sprayed on the side of the building.
“They were exploring,” Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards said. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of [people doing this].”
Some call this urban exploring, accessing abandoned or underground man-made facilities to see what’s there or take pictures.
“I remember a guy coming through a skylight,” said Jim Slaughter, who has owned Slaughter’s Tires next door to the complex since 1961. The intruder spent time in jail for his effort.
Vandals break out windows and spray-paint walls in the neighborhood, but Slaughter said he wasn’t aware of anyone exploring the complex to the south of his property.
On Tuesday morning, workers were refastening the chain-link fence that police and paramedics cut to enter the property to respond to the tragedy.
Butler, 20, a Hiram College student, was charged with misconduct in an emergency and obstructing official business after the accident.
“We made several attempts to question C. Butler on how he got in so we could enter the same way, but we got no cooperation,” police said in their report.
Butler spent a few hours in jail before posting his own bond, 10 percent of $800.
He was “so upset,” an understanding Jennifer Ryba said. “It happened fast and he couldn’t catch her. They said they had to hold him back or he would have gone in after her.”
The couple were sweethearts at Medina County’s Highland High School and had talked of a future together, Jennifer Ryba said. She didn’t blame him for what happened.
She said her daughter had a “wonderful personality, vibrant” and aspired to own an interior design studio. She was on the varsity volleyball team at Highland High.
“Art and volleyball — those were her two loves,” her mother said.
Adrienne is the younger of Steve and Jennifer Ryba’s two daughters. The family expects hundreds at the calling hours from 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. today at the Northside Christian Church in Wadsworth. Services will be there at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.