July 26--The dramatic rescue of an injured high-rise crane operator in the Galleria area Friday afternoon was described as a textbook operation by relieved Houston Fire Department officials after the man was finally lowered 180 feet to safety.
"Everything was planned out. They were methodical and the descent was smooth," HFD Capt. Ruy Lozano said. "These guys are considered one of the top rescue teams in the country."
The worker was injured about 4 p.m. during a shift change at the construction site along the 1400 block of Post Oak. He slipped while making his way down the crane and fell about 10 feet, landing on a small platform within the tower.
"He had back and neck pains and couldn't negotiate the stairs on his own," Lozano said.
The man has not been identified.
About 40 Houston firefighters in a dozen HFD vehicles were quickly dispatched to the scene. Among them was a team specially trained to conduct high angle rescues. Lozano said Friday's mission was a "low frequency-high risk" operation.
"We train for it but we don't get to use it that often," he said. "We don't make many of these and there is a high risk involved in them." The crane was about 200 feet high.
The rescuers made their way up the tower and evaluated the man's injuries. He was alert and conscious the entire time, HFD officials said.
The man was unable to make his way down on his own and carrying him was out of the question. The HFD rescue team then called for a snug, man-sized litter known as a Stokes basket. The winch from a Houston Fire Department ladder truck wasn't high enough, so they used the injured worker's own construction crane to haul up the litter.
The rescue team tightly strapped the man into the basket to prevent any possible spinal injuries then began lowering him to the ground. Firefighter Kevin Mathison was connected by a safety line to the basket and rode down almost 200 feet with him.
About an hour after the fall, the man was finally carried inside a waiting Houston Fire Department ambulance. He was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital for a medical evaluation. HFD officials at the scene did not have information about his condition.
The high-rise rescue operation also caused extensive rush hour traffic congestion in the area, officials said.
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