Saturday, March 5, 2011
Men whose scaffolding collapsed stayed calm by talking to each other
One of the men rescued by a brave firefighter in Yonkers after the scaffolding they were working on collapsed told The Post they kept each other calm while swaying in mid air alongside the 27-story building.
Daniel Sevilla, 26, and his childhood friend from Oaxaca, Mexico, Fernando Enriquez, 22, were removing concrete from the exterior of the senior citizen apartment complex about 4:45 p.m. when the scaffolding collapsed.
With nothing but their safety harnesses keeping them from plummeting 12 stories, Sevilla and Enriquez tried to comfort each other.
"We were just telling each other: ‘Stay calm! Stay calm!’ and ‘Can you hold on?’" said Sevilla, who was stunned to see pictures of the drama in the newspaper.
The dramatic rescue at the troubled Nepperhan Avenue work site unfolded as authorities tried several ways to reach the men.
"I thought they would never get to me," Sevilla said. "I just wanted to get out of there as quick as possible, because the straps [of the safety harness] were squeezing my legs very hard."
The men had to work from keeping their safety harnesses from getting entangled in the broken scaffolding as authorities tried to pull them to safety through a nearby window.
When that didn’t work, someone tried to stretch a ladder up to where the men were dangling.
"That ladder didn’t look like it had a lot of support, so I was a little scared about trying to climb onto it," he said. "I started getting a little worried because it was taking too long for them to get to us. That’s when I started getting desperate."
But the ladder wasn’t long enough to reach the men, who were eventually saved in a daredevil rescue by Yonkers firefighter Michael Giroux, 41, who scaled the side of the building to reach them.
"I knew I was going to be rescued when he got close to me," Sevilla said. "He had a certain confidence in his face, and when I saw his confidence I had no doubt he was going to save me.
"I would like to thank him for helping me," he said.
Sevilla, who came to New York three years ago, said he prefers working on scaffoldings.
"I like working on a scaffold because you feel free," he said. "It’s peaceful and it’s better than working in a restaurant, where the bosses are always behind your back."
Work at the building was temporarily halted Saturday as strong winds continued to make trouble, sending an industrial power vacuum from the still broken scaffolding crashing down.
Yonkers Fire Commissioner Anthony Pagano began yelling at the workers at the Nepperhan Avenue site to "back off, back off," when another, smaller piece of equipment fell.
That’s when Pagano temporarily shut down the site at the apartment building. Work was allowed to resume but high winds slowed the progress of workers who were trying to build a second scaffolding to allow them to reach the broken one, which was being flipped around in the wind.
Sevilla and Enriquez were taken to Westchester Medical Center to be checked out for possible hypothermia and compression injuries but released Saturday morning.
Despite the death-defying incident, Sevilla said he’ll be back up on scaffolding again.
"I have to get back up again, I don’t have any other choice, he said. "I have to keep working to make a life for myself."