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Teen injured at Mall of Abilene after storm knocks out skylight

By Jenna Rogers, Reporter, jrogers@ktxs.com
Published On: Jun 19 2013 07:07:38 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 20 2013 12:26:30 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

The Mall of Abilene was hit by Monday evening's storm, which shattered two skylights and injured at least one teenager.

Tuesday, the mall issued the following statement:

"During Monday's severe thunderstorm, a shopper was struck by broken glass from a skylight. Her injuries were minor and she was treated on scene and left on her own accord. Other shoppers and employees in the area were moved to hallways for their safety. The mall sustained minor damages including two broken skylights. Additionally the Mall was closed due to power outages caused by the storm. The Mall reopened for regular shopping hours Tuesday. The safety of our shoppers and employees is a top priority for our mall. As part of our commitment to promote a safe shopping environment, we maintain a highly trained security staff that is prepared to respond to a variety of emergency situations."

However, the sixteen-year-old girl injured by falling glass has a different account. Janelle Billings said security and mall administration did not help her during the emergency.

"The first aid kit only had alcohol swabs and band-aids and they had no flashlights or anything," said Billings. She said it took the security guard at least 10 minutes to locate the kit.

She also said they didn't warn shoppers about the storm.

"They didn't announce anything and they didn't even take anyone to a tornado shelter. They were just putting people in the hallways," said Billings.

Billings' friend Lauren Donecker, also 16, said she was left alone as Janelle was taken by ambulance to Abilene Regional Hospital.

"The security guard asked me if I had money or a cell phone and I said 'Yeah' and he said 'Well then I suggest you call a taxi because the mall is closed,'" said Donecker.

"I can't understand why an adult would tell a 16-year-old girl who doesn't have a drivers license or much phone communication  to call a cab and suggests she get a ride home in a cab in the middle of a storm," said Lauren's father, Fredrick Donecker.

Lauren said the statement released by the Mall paints a false picture.

"They say their customers are their top priority. That is not true. Their top priority was getting everybody out of the mall so they weren't liable," said Lauren.

The girls and their parents credit a nurse who happened to be shopping that day for helping tend to Janelle's wounds. The nurse also called 9-1-1, and even drove Lauren home.

Janelle's mom, Pepper Downey, called to thank the stranger today on a voice mail.

"Hi my name is Pepper and I haven't met you but you've met my daughter she was the one who got cut up at the mall and i just wanted to thank you for helping her," said Downey.

She said the storm Monday could have been even worse. She worries about the next time something like this happens.

"They have to get better prepared because it might be Abilene and things like this don't normally happen but it can happen obviously and they need to be prepared for it," said Downey.

Just before 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, the Mall of Abilene released a second statement:

"We are thankful that no one was severely injured at the Mall during Monday's storm. We are currently doing our due diligence on the situation involving two teenage girls. We are thankful for the Good Samaritan who helped one of the teenagers with her minor injuries and also helped to give the other teenager a ride home."