Two rescued on 12th story

Published: December 1, 2005 | 2876th good news item since 2003

Two window washers went for a wild, windblown ride Wednesday on a scaffold 12 stories above a downtown Denver street before they were rescued unhurt by firefighters.

The men clung to the scaffold for about 10 minutes as it caromed wildly against and along a building, breaking windows as office workers inside watched in helpless horror.

“The look on that guy’s face was beyond terrified,” said Kathy Flanagan, who works on the 12th floor of Denver Place Plaza Tower. “I really thought (that) he thought he was going to die.”

Denver firefighters were called to the office building, 1099 18th St., about 10 a.m. because the scaffolding had stalled, said Lt. Phil Champagne.

The first responders arrived in three minutes, but by then, the wind had taken hold.

Below the scaffold, pedestrians scrambled to avoid falling shards of glass as the wind-whipped platform smashed windows and gouged the building.

“It created a guillotine situation below,” Champagne said.

No one on the street was injured, but at least one car’s rear window was shattered by falling debris.

Police cordoned off 18th Street between Arapahoe and Curtis streets. More than 30 firefighters responded, including a specially trained “high angle rescue team,” Champagne said. [Coming Back Alive: The True Story of the Most Harrowing Search and Rescue Mission Ever Attempted on Alaska’s High Seas]

From the street, firefighters counted the floors up to the dangling platform and decided on the 12th floor. As they stepped off the elevator, they saw the scaffold heading toward a window like a battering ram.

“It crashed through, and we held it in place,” said Carlos Garcia, a nine-year veteran with the department. Garcia described how he and his colleagues shoved their gloved hands through the broken glass to grab hold.

Among those helping Garcia were Lts. Scott Lynge and Charlie Chase and Capt. Joe Hebert.

“We didn’t have time to tie off,” Hebert said, explaining that the scaffold came into the building so fast, firefighters couldn’t don safety harnesses. “We went to Plan B awfully fast.”

The window washers bolted from the platform toward their rescuers.

“They just ran over us,” Garcia said.

The firefighters then used the two workers’ safety ropes to tie the scaffold to the battered building. At one point, they had to break a window at the tail end of the scaffold, reach a pole through the window and bring the swaying platform alongside the building. Rescuers said their decision to head to the 12th floor and the serendipitous timing of the scaffold’s final crash were key to the successful rescue.

Benny Smith, who works for Qwest in an office building directly across the street, watched from his window and described the firefighters as “true heroes.” [Chicken Soup for the Soul Salutes America’s Heroes : Stories Honoring Police Officers, Firefighters and Other Emergency Rescue Workers]

“They were just hanging on for dear life,” Smith said of the rescued pair of window washers.

The two men, who work for Bob Popp Building Services Inc., were not identified. Popp, the business owner, said they were doing fine at

Published in Rescues
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