"It was like a bowling ball went through the car."
On Friday August 2nd, around 11 p.m., a French bulldog named Winston took a leap off a building on the Lower East Side—and somehow survived with barely a scratch. Winston fell six stories, and somehow landed straight through the sunroof of a parked silver 2018 Dodge Challenger. Winston suffered a few cuts and bruises, but was otherwise totally fine.
A lot of commenters couldn't believe what had happened—over a week later, we still can't quite believe this happened. Below, you'll find an oral and visual retelling of the truly bizarre moment, including security camera footage of the incident, photos from the night, and interviews with witnesses, Winston's owner, the car's owner, and a Harvard professor.
Emma Heinrich, Winston's owner: Winston was actually born in the Ukraine! We got him in late September 2017 from a breeder out on Long Island: Kennel Club Tequila Home. He has a little puppy passport and everything. It’s adorable lol.
Must Be The Mangoes, Reddit user and witness: So first off, I'm not expecting anyone to believe this. I saw it in person and I'm not sure I believe it myself.
Emma Heinrich: So Winston barreled his way through our open roof access door after being taken off his leash before entering our apartment [after our nightly walk]. When I made it up to the roof he was standing closer to the back side (which has a railing). I took one step toward him after telling him to come, and he bolted. He ran towards the front edge of the roof (which does not have a railing). It was just after midnight and it was so dark, and high up enough that the lights from the street didn’t even illuminate the edge clearly. I just know that he had no idea that he was up so high, or that the roof wasn’t going to continue. He is always SUPER cautious when we are in the subway waiting for a train, he is curious to look over the edge sometimes, but he fully braces himself at a safe distance— he definitely understands that he would fall if he went too far. So I just feel like it was too dark for him to see. I watched him try and slow down at the very last moment, probably when he realized that the roof ended, but it was too late.
Jolie Kerr, witness: [My friend and I] happened to be standing right by the car. We heard a huge boom, then glass flew everywhere. At first we thought we were being shot at.
Dr. Daniel E Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University: I can think of three issues to consider: (1) how fast the dog was falling; (2) the energy involved in the collision; (3) how the dog’s body coped with the collisional force.
Must Be The Mangoes: I was walking down Orchard Street...and I heard this giant smash alongside a woman shrieking.
Jolie Kerr: That was probably me screaming. We started screaming, "there's a dog in there!"
You can see Kerr, in pink, next to the car immediately after the fall in the video below.
Emma Heinrich: The second he bolted my stomach went into my throat. I was repeating ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod and no no no no no no in my head until he disappeared over the edge. I screamed just before I heard a huge crash and I ran to the edge and looked over. I saw the car and the broken sun roof, but I didn’t see Winston, just black inside the car.
Must Be The Mangoes: The crowd gets closer to see the sunroof completely smashed in and a dog standing in the cockpit.
Jolie Kerr: It was like a bowling ball went through the car. [Winston was] chilling in the driver's seat like nothing happened. He wasn't in distress, wasn't barking, he really seemed completely fine.
Dr. Daniel E Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University: First, in terms of speed, small animals have a higher surface area to mass ratio than bigger animals because of scaling (as an animal gets bigger, its volume, hence mass, scales to the power of three, but its surface area scales to the power of two). So there is more resistance (essentially the force of the wind pushing up on the animal) that will slow the terminal velocity of a little dog compared to a big dog or a human. The dog when falling might also have spread out its limbs not unlike a falling human or cat to enhance its surface area like a kite and slow it down. Cats do this, but they are arboreal animals, and I'm guessing dogs don’t. But who knows?
Must Be The Mangoes: Thirty seconds pass and a panicked woman comes flying down the stairs of an apartment building, climbs onto the hood of the car and pulls the dog out through the sunroof... as depicted [see below].
Emma Heinrich: I tore down the stairs, yelling to my husband [Danny Collins] who quickly followed me down. The whole time I’m trying to prepare myself to have to pick up a dead body. I got to the car and I see him just sitting up in the driver’s seat. I was shocked. I jumped onto the hood and by the skin off his neck pulled him through the sunroof and handed him to Danny.
Jolie Kerr: I was trying to help her, and pull her off the hood of the car. I think I got cut [doing that], my shoes were covered in blood after.
Must Be The Mangoes: The dog wasn't visibly bleeding but was quite shook up and salivating a lot. Still cannot believe it...The bizarre part is that he landed perfectly through the sunroof. An inch to either side and it could've ended drastically differently.
Dr. Daniel E Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University: Second, a collision involves an exchange of momentum (mass times velocity) over the period of time the animal decelerates to a 0 (aka a “dead stop”). Hitting the sunroof must have been a huge benefit because glass is so brittle (it is stiff without being strong) that it probably shattered instantly without stopping the dog’s fall completely. This initial partial collision probably slowed the dog’s fall significantly without causing much damage to the dog. And then (I am guessing again) the more slowly falling dog landed on a nice cushioned seat inside the car, which is another boon because the cushioning probably absorbed some energy as well as slowed the rate of loading of the dog’s body when it did finally decelerate to 0 (much like a cushioned heel on a running shoe protects your body from landing hard on your heel).
If you skip to :15 mark in the video below, you can see Heinrich crawling onto the hood of the car. Collins, in a blue shirt, runs onto the street at the :22 second mark. Then at the one minute mark, you can see them get off the car with Winston in tow.
Emma Heinrich: He was hyperventilating and had a cut on his back leg that I held while Danny rushed to get everything we needed. Despite the bleeding cut he wasn’t expressing any signs of being in any pain as I held him close to me. The three of us got into an Uber and booked it to Blue Pearl Animal Hospital. They had to wait until Winston was calm before they could take any X-rays so we had to wait for meds to kick in and his breathing to slow down, which felt like an eternity...I was a wreck.
The vet finally pulled us into a private room to tell us that x-rays showed that there wasn’t a single broken bone. They explained that they found signs of bruising to his lungs, which can be dangerous since as a short-snout dog he is already predisposed to breathing problems. They put him in an oxygen chamber and hooked him up to IVs and gave him pain and anti anxiety medication and sent us home. They wanted to make sure that whatever bruising was there didn’t get worse over the next 24 hours.
Dr. Daniel E Lieberman, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University: Again, it helped for the dog to be small because bones resist loads primarily through their cross sectional area. Because body mass scales to the power of three but bone cross sectional areas scale to the power of two, smaller animals have relatively much stronger bones than bigger animals.
Ashley Haynes, the car's owner: I was out to Craw Daddies eating literally two blocks away. When I came back to my vehicle, it was good Samaritans that told me about the incident. [Danny Collins] had left his business info in the driver seat of the car and left for the vet.
Photo by Jolie Kerr
Jolie Kerr: My friend Mike wanted to leave a note [for the car's owner]. I told him, they're gonna get this note and think it's a joke. 'A dog fell from a roof into your car?'
Ashley Haynes: My reaction honestly was confusion. I thought I was getting Punk’d or something because the reason for my sunroof being broken sounded ridiculous. I didn’t even see my sunroof first. I was walking toward my car and saw everyone staring at me. I didn’t even notice anything until I opened my door and saw glass everywhere.
Jolie Kerr: After I left, the owner of car came out and was like, 'WTF happened to my car?!' [My friend] Mike told them. 'No, we don't believe you, what happened to the car?' No, no, really! The owners watched surveillance video of the incident [at a bodega] and were like, yup!
Ashley Haynes: Honestly, I was more pissed than anything else after because now I would have to tell this story to my insurance company. If one of your fellow writers told you a dog fell though your roof, would you believe them?
Emma Heinrich: Lucky after 36 hours, Winston was able to be released with minimal signs of the bruising that they initially saw. He has a couple stitches in his leg where he was cut, but other than that and a few scrapes, he walked away from this without any serious injury.
He was pretty stiff the first couple days at home, but seems to be feeling better and better each day. He is eating and walking and wanting to play. It is absolutely incredible. We are so, so lucky. We will have to bring him back for a follow-up and to have his stitches removed but we anticipate that he will make a full recovery!
Emma Heinrich, Danny Collins & Winston (Emma Heinrich)
Ashley Haynes: Initially [Collins] said we could figure it out [getting my car fixed] between each other, but I showed him the cost of the sunroof and he said he maxed out his credit cards and it was an accident. I [have been paying] out pocket just to use the car, such as getting it clean from the blood and glass and storing it at night in a parking garage because I don't want to leave my duct tape roof unattended that long. Plus it’s been raining and the tape is not going hold up for heavy rain. I saved his dog's life and his payback was a response that it "was a freak accident."
Emma Heinrich: In regards to the damage to the vehicle, our attorney is handling the claim.
Jolie Kerr: All New Yorkers are terrified of air conditioners falling on them. Now I'm afraid of an animal falling off a building and onto me! It's a whole new specific New York fear to have.
Additional reporting by Adwait Patil.