The railings encircling the rotunda at the Mission Inn where a woman fell to her death on Thursday, July 29, do not meet current safety codes, the hotel says, but Riverside police have not determined whether their height figured in the tragedy.
Investigators don’t know what led the woman, who was in her late 70s, to fall from the rotunda, Officer Ryan Railsback, a Police Department spokesman, said Friday. Witnesses said she was on the staircase on the third floor at about 11:37 a.m. before she went over the railing, he said.
Her name had not been announced as of Friday afternoon.
The railing is about 3 feet high. Warning signs say the railing and staircase are historical features of the hotel, which is a National Historic Landmark, and “The height of this railing does not comply with the current safety codes.”
It’s unclear whether that status would prevent the hotel from increasing the height of the railing if it desired. The National Park Service website says the status “does not prohibit under federal law or regulations any actions which may otherwise be taken by the property owner with respect to the property.”
A Mission Inn spokesman could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The outdoor rotunda on the hotel’s interior, a dizzying six stories high, is accessible by elevator and spiral staircase. A bust of Abraham Lincoln sits in an alcove at the top. At the bottom, flowers filled four glass vases in a half-circle around a fountain on Friday. The rotunda was open to visitors, and some snapped photographs.
The Mission Inn opened in 1876 as an adobe boarding house and now features 238 guest rooms. It is on the shortlist of the city’s most notable attractions, visited by tens of thousands of people every year. The hotel is decorated with 5 million bulbs each year during the nationally famous Festival of Lights, and the switch-on ceremony that kicks off six weeks of festivities the day after Thanksgiving is one of the most anticipated events of the year.