Exclusive: Worker rescued from Heast Tower scaffold speaks

June 13, 2013 3:18:49 AM PDT
Two building maintenance workers, trapped high in the sky when the scaffolding beneath them buckled, are breathing huge sighs of relief Thursday.

They're also giving thanks to their rescuers, one in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News reporter Josh Einiger.

The two workers, 49-year-old Steve Schmidt and 26-year-old Victor Caraballo, were left dangling for more than 90 minutes from the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower on West 57th Street and Eighth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan Wednesday afternoon.

The platform they were using apparently just snapped in the middle, forcing firefighters to use their high-wire training to rescue the men. They cut through a window on the 45th floor, put the men in harnesses and pulled inside.

Josh Einiger caught up with Schmidt Wednesday evening at his home. He offered his thanks to everyone involved the rescue.

"They got us so fast, professional, it was great," he said. "Thanks a lot, guys."

Schmidt, who said he was thinking about his family much of the time, was asked the first thing he did after getting his feet back on solid ground.

"Just sat down," he said. "I was just glad I was off it, just try to relax a little bit...I'm little shaken up still, but thanks to the fire department and emergency services, everything is all right."

Caraballo was not available to talk. His family said he had to go to the gym, presumably to work off some of the adrenaline after being trapped so high in the sky.

The investigation into the scaffold malfunction is ongoing. Fire department Chief James Leonard said after the rescue it appeared the center motor of the scaffold's three motors may have failed.

The metal scaffold, which was hoisted onto the roof afterward, also appeared to have buckled in the middle, into an elongated V shape. The men were on either side, communicating with firefighters on the roof for about an hour and a half. Fire officials said they were working with the city Department of Buildings to determine if the scaffold buckled after the motor failed or if it was always that shape.