UPDATED 8:20 p.m.: There was high drama — and frozen traffic — in midtown Manhattan Wednesday afternoon as the FDNY rescued two maintenance workers stranded on a scaffold outside the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower, officials said.
Fire officials said that the movable scaffolding used to hoist the men appeared to have malfunctioned, causing the device to bend at an angle.
After the initial emergency call came in around 2:40 p.m., police closed off traffic on Eighth Avenue as fire fighters 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.
About 4:20 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 which 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. Their identities were not released Wednesday.
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 unsure of what they were seeing.
Luis Santamaria, 25, who lives on the Upper East Side, was walking in the area when he saw a huge crowd and all the fire engines. His first thought another Spider-Man movie was being filmed.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, it's a very scary thing to happen to someone,” Santamaria said. “It's so crowded here it could have ended very tragically, but I'm thankful it didn't.”