Injured construction worker rescued from 13th Street bridge

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 16, 2014 

Columbus Fire & Emergency Medical Services' High Angle Rescue Team worked for more than two hours Wednesday afternoon to rescue an injured construction worker trapped on scaffolding beneath the 13th Street bridge.

Battalion Chief Bryan Watson said the man was working on bridge reconstruction and painting with an unidentified construction company when an unidentified piece of metal hit him in the lower back around 2:40 p.m. The injured man was suspended around 50 feet in the air when the accident happened.

"It appears he's suffering from blunt trauma from the metal," Watson said. "He was harnessed to an 80,000 pound cable when the accident happened."

Fire Marshall Ricky Shores said twelve rescuers arrived from Station One within three minutes of the report. Before devising a plan to rescue the injured construction worker, team members extracted a second worker who was assisting the victim when the accident happened.

Shores said the rescuers worked quickly to devise a complicated rope system on top of the 13th Street bridge, much of which was not visible to onlookers below. The rope system supported more than 700 pounds, including rescue equipment, two members of the High Angle Rescue Team and the victim. It was stabilized using a ladder truck.

"It's been some time since we've had to set up a system like this," Shores said. "It's a rare bird. Rope rescues are very technical. They require a lot of hand skills. That team does a very good job of training for those kinds of operations."

Officials rescued the man by lowering two members of the High Angle Rescue Team to the scaffolding where the man lay. They then moved him to a Stokes Basket — a type of rescue stretcher used to remove injured people from difficult to reach places.

An assisting paramedic also provided medical aid to the man, who periodically cried out in pain. Shores said he was unable to disclose whether the man's mobility had been temporarily or permanently affected by the injury.

Officials then lowered the man and one member of the rescue team down to some rocks in the Chattahoochee River. Members of the rescue team used a cherry picker to move the man from the rocks to the RiverWalk. He was transported to Midtown Medical Center, where he remains in unknown condition.

Watson said his team performed excellently under such precarious rescue conditions.

"That's what they're trained to do — rescue people in adverse conditions." Watson said. "Any time you're suspended 50 feet off the bridge, I'd call that an adverse condition."

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