There was high drama -- and frozen traffic -- in midtown Manhattan yesterday afternoon as the FDNY rescued two maintenance workers stranded on a scaffold outside the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower.
Fire officials said that the movable scaffolding used to hoist the men appears to have malfunctioned, causing the device to bend at an angle.
After the initial emergency call came in at around 2:39 p.m., police closed off traffic on Eighth Avenue as firefighters went to the roof, about two stories above the stranded men, to figure out how they could be rescued. Some 12 FDNY units responded. Traffic was also brought to a crawl on blocks north and south of the building.
At about 4:17 p.m., firefighters cut through windows adjacent to the stalled scaffold and brought both men inside the building. Officials said the men, who were performing maintenance on the scaffold that was specially designed for the unique building exterior, suffered very minor injuries.
" 'Thank you, thank you,'" was how paramedic Moses Nelson characterized the reaction of the men after they were rescued.
The identities of the men were not released yesterday, said Ted Lotti, deputy director of security for the Hearst Corporation.
Officials said the men worked for Tractel Inc., a company that specializes in mechanical hoist systems with offices in Long Island City. A woman answering the telephone at the Queens office said the company had no comment and referred a reporter to the FDNY.
Down below, New Yorkers were at first not sure about what they were seeing. Luis Santamaria, 25, who lives in Manhattan, was walking in the area when he saw a huge crowd and all the fire engines. His first thought was that they were filming another Spider-Man movie.
"I've never seen anything like this, it's a very scary thing to happen to someone.," said Santamaria. "It's so crowded here it could have ended very tragically, but I'm thankful it didn't."
Lucrezia Campinoti, 19, of midtown, was in a taxi when the driver her told her -- incorrectly -- that someone had fallen and died.
"I'm here to see them save them, this is like, a really scary situation, they're so high up," said Campinoti.
The Hearst building is headquarters for the media company. The modern structure was completed in 2006 at the cost of $500 million. Its exterior is graced by a series of triangular steel braces.
Tim Herrera contributed to this story