Workers rescued from top of Hearst Tower

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jun 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-12 23:06:14-04

NEW YORK (PIX11) – Two men stranded on broken scaffolding outside the top of the Hearst Tower were pulled in safely by firefighters Wednesday afternoon.

The men were dangling precariously after the platform they were standing on buckled in the middle outside of the 45th floor, some 500 feet above the ground.  The first 9-1-1 call was placed around 2:40 p.m., and it wasn’t until 4:15 p.m. that they were rescued.

Hearst Tower Rescue

Firefighters were able to remove one of the windows by cutting through the glass from the inside.  Using safety lines tethered to the roof, firefighter Tom Gayron was able to walk the men from the scaffolding through the window.

“We were able tie off the scaffolding from the inside of the building and pull it tight to the building,” Gayron said.  “Just assisting them — one hand inside, one hand outside — and they were on their ropes and with the members on the roof they lowered (us) as we all came in.”

Both men were examined by emergency medics at the scene and were uninjured.

The mobile scaffolding was specially created for the building over three years by Toronto-based firm Tractel-Swingstage — at an estimated value of $3 million.  The platform has a hinge that enables the scaffolding to wrap around the corners buildings, but it broke in the middle Wednesday, with the two sides buckling upward.

The Hearst Tower was designed by Norman Foster and was approved for construction in 2001.  From the beginning, the mosaic of glass and steel presented a window-washing challenge.  From the ground to the top of the tower, the corner edge of the building inverts in multiple “bird mouths”.

A February New Yorker article described the complex Tractel scaffolding solution as:

“A rectangular steel box the size of a Smart car, supporting a 40-foot mast and a hydraulic boom arm attached by six strands of wire rope to a telescopic cleaning basket, houses a computer that monitors 67 electromechanical safety sensors and switches, and runs around the roof of the Hearst Tower on 420 feet of elevated steel track.”