Globe and Mail

Baby who fell from bridge doing 'very well'

Child survivor of 45-metre drop to leave hospital soon to care of father's family

KIM LUNMAN
British Columbia Bureau
The Globe and Mail
Monday, September 27, 1999

Victoria -- The child who miraculously survived a 45-metre fall from her mother's arms off a scenic bridge in Vancouver should soon be released from hospital to her father's family, her aunt said yesterday.

"She's doing very, very well," said Debbie Werbes, who was preparing a nursery yesterday for 18-month-old Kaya, whose escape from serious injury and death has stunned rescue workers and medical experts.

She said Kaya's father, Kjeld Werbes, has been at his daughter's side at a Vancouver hospital since the child's fall last Wednesday from the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

Meanwhile, the girl's mother, Nadia Hama, who is under police investigation, told a Vancouver newspaper she hadn't visited her daughter in the hospital. "I don't know why," she was quoted as saying.

Mrs. Werbes, who has been at the hospital throughout the family's ordeal, said Kaya appears alert and happy, with a bump on her head and some bruising on her arm. Kaya, who has mild Down syndrome, started eating again on the weekend, and doctors say she appears healthy.

"She is fine," Mrs. Werbes said. "I don't think there's any words to describe it. It's just unbelievable.

"She'll be ready to come home soon. We're all anxious to get her here."

RCMP are still investigating the fall and interviewing witnesses. Police executed a search warrant at the home of Ms. Hama and took a computer from the residence Friday. No charges have been laid.

Her lawyer has accused the police of mistreating Ms. Hama, who was interrogated for 24 hours after she told witnesses she lost her footing and tripped on the bridge when Kaya fell.

Police released dramatic photographs of Ms. Hama taken by tourists showing her carrying the little girl on the busy pedestrian bridge in one frame and without Kaya moments later.

Police say tree boughs cushioned the child's fall on a rocky shore of the Capilano River.

Her parents are embroiled in acrimonious divorce proceedings, fighting in court over child support, a $65,000 Ferrari and a $460,000 ski resort condominium in Whistler, B.C. Court records show Mr. Werbes, 53, had $2.3-million in net assets and Ms. Hama, who is in her late 30s, had net assets totalling $12,000.

Mr. Werbes, a securities lawyer, and Ms. Hama, a former esthetician, met in 1989 and married in Las Vegas in 1996. They separated 14 months later, three months before their daughter was born.

Ms. Hama had sole custody of the children and the couple shared guardianship.

The B.C. Ministry for Children and Families has taken custody of Kaya and her four-year-old brother, Jovan, who was walking with his mother on the bridge when his sister plummeted over the edge.

The ministry has released Jovan into the temporary care of Debbie and Jan Werbes, Mr. Werbes's brother, and Kaya is expected to join the family soon when she is discharged from hospital.

"Our sole concern is for the children," Mrs. Werbes said. "We're just going to try to give them a secure, loving home. . . . We're all pulling together as a family."

A court hearing under the B.C. Children and Families Act is set for Wednesday.

The lawyer for Kaya's father, Michael Leslie, said he would appear in court but refused to say whether he has been instructed to seek custody.

Lawyers for Ms. Hama could not be reached for comment.

Copyright © 1999 Globe Information Services