Window cleaners rescued after being stranded at 153 metres

Two window washers who were stranded nearly 500 feet (153 metres) above the streets of Midtown Manhattan after the platform they were working on snapped were rescued on Wednesday by New York City firefighters.

The platform, connected to scaffolding, seemed to have snapped in the middle, although it was not immediately clear what caused it to malfunction. The accident was first reported at 2:39 pm at the Hearst Tower on Eighth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets and the men were brought to safety around 4:15 pm, fire officials said.

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Workers trapped on NYC scaffolding

RAW VISION: Two window washers are stranded on a broken scaffold dangling off the top of the 46-story Hearst Tower in New York City. No sound.

Rescue workers broke out a window on the 45th floor, two stories below the roof, in order to reach the workers. The window washers, both men, were wearing harnesses at the time of the accident, and firefighters lowered an extra set of harnesses to them.

Chief William Seelig of the Fire Department said they decided that knocking out the window was safer than trying to hoist the men up onto the roof.

The dramatic rescue was broadcast live on several local television networks, which showed the stranded men trying to remain as still as possible before pulled to safety and a large crowd gathered on the streets below before being pushed back by the police.

A portion of Eighth Avenue was shut down, with officials concerned about both the stability of the window-washing rig and the possibility of falling glass.


The crowds on the street quickly swelled as more emergency vehicles rushed to the scene.

The Hearst Tower is one of the most modern and distinct buildings in the city, with its radically angled panes of glass rising above the original 1928 Hearst International Magazine Building as his pedestal. The building, designed by architect Norman Foster, was the first skyscraper approved for construction after September 11, 2001. When Foster submitted his unconventional design, according to an article in The New Yorker, the first question the building owners asked was, "How are you going to clean those windows?"

That became the challenge of Tractel-Swingstage, a Toronto-based company and the world's largest manufacturer of scaffolds and window cleaning platforms, the magazine described in a detailed article on the equipment.

New York Times