Students, don't party and make 'stupid' decisions – this guy did and almost died

What started off as a photo-op at a London student street party ended in a near-fatal accident for 23-year-old Cole Liley. Now, Liley is advocating for injury prevention.

Doctors call it the 'stupid line' and are reminding students heading back to school to mind it

Cole Liley, 23, wants people to learn from his mistake. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Cole Liley admits he made a stupid decision.

What started off as a photo-op at a student street party ended in a near-fatal accident that's now led the 23-year-old to advocate for injury prevention.

Liley was at an unofficial Western University homecoming party last September when his friends called him over to pose for a group photo on a second floor balcony.

Liley, who's a professional arborist, decided to get up to them by scaling the building, climbing the railing and hopping over onto the balcony.

But as they say: it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

The group photo came out okay — but he didn't.

On his climb down, Liley, who said he had been drinking beer, felt a screw pop out of the railing. That's when he let go.

"I closed my eyes and I pretty much knew it was over in that moment," he recalled.

He fell 15 feet — two stories — and landed on his back.

The 23-year-old was in hospital for one week last year. (Submitted )

He was rushed to the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) where he'd later learn he'd fractured his skull, spine, cheekbone and thumb.

The line between smart and stupid

Liley was put into an induced coma for three days.

He had fractured his skull in three places, resulting in serious brain swelling and bleeding. Health professionals treated his injuries while he was on life support.

He said he was conscious for some of those conversations between doctors.

"It was really scary," he said. "I couldn't remember anything."

It took months and several surgeries to fully recover. And LHSC officials say he's lucky to even be alive.

Fully recovered, Liley reflects on the accident. (Colin Butler/CBC)

They've partnered up with Liley's family to send a safety message to students ahead of the start of the school year next week, which coincides with frosh week.

"LHSC's Injury Prevention program is reminding students returning to post-secondary studies to know their 'Stupid Line' – that fine line between a smart and stupid risk – and offering tips to ensure fun celebrations don't end in tragedy," officials said in a news release.

"We want to make sure people step back," said Jane Edwards, injury prevention specialist. "Especially when we're young, we're out with friends, there's peer pressure, there's alcohol and drugs."

Edwards said recent years have seen an increase in young adults coming to hospital with traumatic injuries during the first few months back to school. The incidents range from alcohol poisoning to lower grade injuries. But the leading cause is motor vehicle collisions.

Liley, left, is joined by his sister Madison, centre left, mom Candace, centre right, and dad Jeff, right. (Colin Butler/CBC)

'It could have been prevented'

Both Western University and Fanshawe College are hosting orientation events next week, with homecoming events beginning later this fall. In years past, school and police officials have sent out warnings to students.

It's unclear what this year will bring.

But, Liley hopes party-goers will learn from his "stupid" mistake.

"I want to get out my story and make sure people don't have accidents like I did. It could have definitely been prevented," he said.

"I want people to take a second thought on what they're doing and think about the consequences."