Dramatic crane rescue at University of Utah

Published: Thursday, Jan. 24 2008 10:20 a.m. MST

There was a dramatic rescue at the University of Utah Thursday morning when a construction worker became trapped 83 feet in the air after slipping and falling.

Just before 8 a.m. a 46-year-old construction worker, who was helping to build the new Physics Building on campus near 100 South and 1450 East, was climbing a ladder to get into his crane when he either slipped on the ice or missed a step, said Salt Lake Deputy Fire Chief Dan Andrus.

The man fell about 6 feet before his safety harness stopped him from falling to the ground.

"The harness saved his life," Andrus said.

The man hit his head against the metal scaffolding after the harness broke his fall. Co-workers were able to pull the man back up to the platform, about 83-feet above the ground. But because he was complaining of back pain, rescuers had to figure out a way to lower him back to the ground while keeping his back stable, Andrus said.

The first plan was to use a ladder truck, which crews quickly determined wasn't going to work. The department's High Angle Rescue Team then set up a pulley system with ropes and after securing the man to a half-backboard, he was lowered by ropes to the ground. The rescue took about an hour.

"Technically this was a very difficult rescue," Andrus said.

There was also a concern about fatigue among rescuers, many of whom helped fight the 4-alarm fire in downtown Salt Lake Wednesday night at the old Club DV8. But Andrus said the crew was fine and did their jobs without error.

The crane operator complained of being cold and having some back pain when he was loaded into a waiting ambulance, but otherwise was "very glad to be down," Andrus said.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

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