Two window washers spent 20 minutes clinging to a dangling platform 37 stories above State Street this morning before firefighters smashed windows and pulled the men to safety, according to fire officials and witnesses.
Glass rained down on the street below. (Photograph by Mark Carey)
The scaffold hanging off the glass high-rise failed at about 9:15 a.m. and one end of the metal platform dropped some 20 feet, leaving it slanted at a precarious 45-degree angle. Held aloft by their safety harnesses, the window washers gripped the rigging, "banging on the window" at office workers inside, according to David Surprenant, a contractor working on the 38th floor.
"They were yelling for someone to call 911," said Surprenant, recounting what he was told by an office worker a floor below.
Boston firefighters rushed up to the 37th floor in an elevator and used blunt metal tools to break two windows. Glass rained down on the street below as firefighters yelled for passersby to take cover. People scattered on the narrow streets to avoid the debris.
The firefighters fed ropes out the broken windows to secure the two window washers, Kyle Redmond and Julio Ortiz. It took five minutes to pull the first man to safety inside the building, and seven minutes to save the second. To watch a reader-submitted video of the rescue, click here.
"It seemed like a week," said Lieutenant John Soares, one of the firefighters on the 37th floor. "They were shaken and rightfully so. They were thankful and grateful. They just wanted to get off the scaffolding as soon as they could."
One of the men was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening. The other man did not suffer serious injuries. The men work for Harvard Maintenance Inc., a national company that services office buildings.
(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
The rescue created a dramatic scene in the Financial District as firefighters cordoned off the streets surrounding the building at 53 State St.
"Everybody in our office ran to the windows to look," said Brett Jackson, who was working on the ninth floor of the building across the street and snapped a photograph with his cellphone.
"We could hear glass hitting the side of the building," said Mark Carey, 22, who was working four floors below 53 State St. at a communications firm.
Jose Diaz, 21, watched from a nearby street. “I saw the two guys hanging up there. I’m glad they were rescued,” Diaz said. “I wouldn’t be up there if it were me.”
The two window washers had been working on the Exchange Place side of the building when their rigging somehow failed, according to Melissa Coley, spokeswoman for building owner Brookfield Properties Inc.
"We are glad everybody is OK,'' Coley said.
Boston Deputy Fire Chief Robert Calobrisi said the workers were in “great danger of falling out.”
“It’s a perilous task," Calobrisi said, "especially when you are up that high, but technical rescues are part of ongoing training."
Two workplace safety inspectors from the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration responded to the scene to investigate, said spokesman Ted Fitzgerald. According to the safety administration's listing of workplace safety investigations, Harvard Maintenance has only been the subject of two inquiries since 2004, one in Manhattan and one in Minnesota. Details were not immediately available.
(David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
Lieutenant John Soares (second from left) and three other firefighters rushed to the 37th floor.
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