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Autistic teen dies in fall down Gold Coast high-rise trash chute

A 17-year-old autistic boy with Down’s Syndrome died early Tuesday February 21 2012 after apparently falling down trash chute 48-story

A 17-year-old autistic boy with Down’s Syndrome died early Tuesday, February 21, 2012, after apparently falling down a trash chute in the 48-story Gold Coast high-rise at 1555 N. Astor where he lived. | Ernie Torres~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 23, 2012 8:11AM

Charley Manley’s “huge smiles” epitomized the spirit of the Special Olympics, the movement’s leader once wrote.

A day after the 17-year-old plunged to his death at his Gold Coast high-rise home, he was remembered Tuesday as “an inspiration.”

Manley ­— an autistic boy who had Down syndrome and a family of prominent Special Olympics supporters — fell down a garbage chute to his death at 1555 N. Astor, where his body was found shortly after 11 p.m. Monday night, police said.

He lived with his family in a duplex home on the 46th and 47th floors of the building. His family first noticed he was missing when an alarm system indicated that a door was ajar, authorities said.

When they couldn’t find the teen, they called building security and contacted police. Manley was found facedown in a garbage container on the ground floor, and was dead at the scene, according to the medical examiner’s office.

An autopsy on Tuesday found Manley died of multiple injuries from a fall down the garbage chute, and his death was ruled an accident, the medical examiner’s office said.

Manley’s family was well-known in the Special Olympics community. His father, private investor John Manley, formerly served as a director on the international board of the Special Olympics and attended events organized by the movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as multiple Special Olympics World Games.

The movement’s CEO, Tim Shriver, described how Charlie Manley was “home-schooled and determined to beat a life of low expectations” in a 2004 newspaper column, writing how the boy’s workouts were “interrupted only by his huge smiles.”

Chicago-born Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Bart Conner — now a director on the Special Olympics Board — said in a statement Tuesday, “The entire Special Olympics family is devastated by this tragedy and for our friend John Manley.”

“Charlie was an inspiration to all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Manley family during this sad, sad time.”

Charlie has two siblings, according to a biography on the Special Olympics website. His father is also vice-chairman of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Authorities are still investigating how he got into the chute, but officials said they believe he entered it on the 46th or 47th floor, where he lived.

Belmont Area detectives are conducting a death investigation, police said.

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