IOWA CITY, Iowa — Firefighters tunneled through two walls to rescue a construction worker that had fallen down a large shaft at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Friday morning.
Iowa City Fire Battalion Chief Brian Platz said fire and medical personnel were called out to the hospital at 7:50 a.m. for a worker who had been working on the roof of the hospital and fell down a shaft. Platz said the shaft was 15 by 30 feet and 20 to 25 feet deep.
“He was laying at the bottom of the shaft,” Platz said. “There were no good access points except from above.”
Steve Spenler, director of the Johnson County Ambulance Service, said he had a crew that had just dropped off a patient at the hospital and were the first to arrive on the scene of the fall. Spenler said he hasn’t received a full report on the rescue, but his personnel was able to take a ladder down the shaft to provide care to the injured man. The extent of his injuries is unknown at this time.
While medical personnel attended to the injured man, Platz said firefighters had to figure out how to get him out of the shaft.
“Our job was to extricate him from the shaft,” Platz said. “We worked one two fronts — one being a high point anchor system.”
While the are several construction cranes at the University Hospitals working on various projects, Platz said none of them were close enough to approach the man from above. Instead, firefighters went with their “Plan A,” which was tunneling to the shaft through two walls and a voided space on the eighth floor of the hospital.
“It was certainly a technical rescue,” Platz said, calling such rescues “very high risk, but very low frequency.”
“There’s certainly a lot we need to consider,” he added. “They take a lot of specialized equipment.”
Fortunately, with all of the construction work going on at the hospital, there was no shortage of equipment. Platz said construction crews at the hospital loaned firefighters power tools, batteries or any other equipment they needed to cut through the walls.
“We used a lot of the construction workers’ tools while we were up there,” Platz said. “It was a very convenient environment.”
Platz also praised the hospital staff who aided in the operation by escorting firefighters through the hospital, shutting down the elevator to the work area and providing other functions.
“It’s paramount everyone works well together,” Platz said.
The man was conscious and alert when the firefighters reached him, Platz said. Spenler said he was unable to provide a current condition on the man who was rescued.