Two Rescued in Mass. Parking Garage Collapse

LYNN, Mass. --

Rescuers rushed to save two men trapped in a vehicle after a roof partially collapsed at a parking garage in Lynn early Thursday, as yet another snowstorm blasted the Bay State.

Both men saying they were lucky to have survived.

"We heard a lot of noise and we thought it was one of the vans," said Ceaser Jimenez, one of the men. "We looked up and we saw the roof coming down on us ... We almost got crushed."

"We were both blessed to be able to make it through that," said Peter Sullivan, his co-worker. "We did a lot of praying."

Both were trapped in a Lynnway garage that houses vehicles used for a senior services agency when the roof partially came down before 6 a.m. The two men dove into their vehicle just before a ceiling full of tons of snow and debris rained down on them.

"It was my wife was the first person that I called, and I told her that I was in some trouble and didn't know if I was going to make it," said Sullivan, his voice choked with emotion. "And she comforted me and sent out the prayer line and called my kids and they were all, you know, praying for me."

"I asked Peter, 'How do you feel?' Peter say, 'I'm alive.' He asked me, and I say, "I'm still alive, Peter, I'm breathing,'"said Jimenez.

After about two hours, rescuers were able to free both of the men and take them to Massachusetts General Hospital to be checked out.

"They were still seated in their passenger seats with the roof of the vehicle just right above the head rests," said Lynn Acting Deputy Chief James McDonald.

"They were very lucid. They were very calm," said McDonald, who added that 25 to 30 rescuers had to dig through about 3 feet of snow and roof debris to get to the vehicle in which the men were trapped. They then had to use hand and power tools to cut the roof off the vehicle to free the men.

The roof collapse occurred at the Greater Lynn Senior Services parking garage, where drivers who transport elderly Lynn residents to appointments and bring them meals were arriving to start their shifts.

"Everybody heard a loud noise and started running from it," said Lynn Mayor Judith Kennedy.

"They would have been checking their vehicles," she said, getting ready for the start of their work day.

Rescuers had to use extreme caution because of concerns that the entire roof might come down. They had to access the trapped men through a 100 -by 100-square-foot-hole in the garage roof, then dig out the car and cut off the roof of the vehicle.

"You can't describe how lucky someone is in this situation," McDonald said.

State emergency officials urged home and business owners to remove snow from rooftops, especially flat roofs, to avoid more problems.

"The events from this morning are a scary reminder of the kind of impacts heavy snow can have," said Scott McLeod of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA. "We want homeowners and businesses to be on alert for accumulating snow."

"It could happen again," said McDonald. "We've got a lot of snow. Buildings like this just don't get shoveled off."

Another warehouse roof collapsed in West Bridgewater because of heavy snow. Police said no one was in the moving company warehouse at the time and no injuries were reported.

The fast-moving nor'easter that caused all the problems dealt another roundhouse blow to New England overnight, clogging roads in some areas with more than a foot of snow and reducing visibility to about a half-mile before it sped out to sea.

In the Massachusetts towns of Milford and North Attleborough there was more than a foot of snow added to the 50-plus inches that have already fallen on the Bay State so far this season. Since Jan. 1, Boston has seen measurable snowfall on 12 days -- almost half the days in the month to date.

During the height of the storm, motorists along the Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 128 were reporting white-out conditions and many were saying it was impossible to go more than 20 mph.

"This is the worst it's been," a limousine driver stopped on the turnpike said of the visibility on the highway.

Boston public schools, along with many others, closed for the fourth snow day this winter. Public schools across the state are beginning to deal with the prospect of extending the school year into July or canceling spring vacation days.

Tall snow banks were making it difficult for drivers to see and creating a safety hazard for school children, some parents said. In Stoughton, Kim Gould said her son was almost hit by a car while walking to school because of the piles of snow.

State emergency officials were reporting scattered power outages, with 2,500 customers affected, mostly in Norfolk and Plymouth counties. There were wind gusts of up to 46 mph reported on Nantucket.

Logan International Airport had one runway open, but there were scores of airline cancellations as airports all along the Eastern Seaboard were shut down. Amtrak suspended service between New York and Boston.

A problem on the D branch of the MBTA Green Line was causing delays and T officials advised commuters to try to use the C branch instead. The T was also busing passengers between Kenmore and Riverside.

For scores of plow operators, the successive snow storms were taking their toll as they work to keep the roads clear.

"After about 25 hours (straight), you begin to forget about everything," said operator Bob Jones.

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