JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three men are back home with their families after the scaffold they were working on outside the Duval County jail collapsed on Thursday afternoon.
The accident occurred around 2 p.m. Police believe a heavy thunderstorm may have played a role, but the actual cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Police told News4Jax the three men are employed by McCurdy-Walden Inc. and were making repairs on the jail's windows.
One of the men was rescued by a co-worker. The other two men were rescued by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department through a maneuver firefighters call "a high-angle rescue," which involves the use of ladder trucks and a commercial bucket truck.
"It was very dangerous. From that drop right there, (a hit on) the back of the head (and) they would have been done. That was frightening to see," said Jon Andujar, who witnessed the men being rescued.
"They'll do whatever it takes to get them down," said Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.
Less than 30 minutes after the initial call, the two other men were safely on the ground.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the three men were following protocol and were wearing safety harnesses at the time of the accident.
"We're going to look to what could have led to this, what was the direct cause of why this swing-state scaffold went down. We're going to look into how that scaffold was set up and what was the maintenance on the motors of this swing state," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA area director.
One witness heard the men screaming and called JFRD.
"I was about to leave, and I could see through my windshield that the scaffolding was starting to slide down," the witness said. "I got out of my car and started running toward them, and I could hear them yelling. All their equipment was sliding off. They were trying to maneuver the ropes to try to level it out, but it was just going down pretty quickly, so I just called JFRD and asked them to get a ladder truck pretty quick."
Now that those men are safe, people in the area are thankful the situation wasn't worse.
"We've got three employees who were wearing their formal protection gear. They were following the OSHA standards, and they get to go home and see their families today," Sturtecky said.
News4Jax found out McCurdy-Walden, Incorporated has had seven previous violations with OSHA since 2006.
The most recent violation, from 2012, was over a problem with its fall protection systems and the company was fined $6,000.
Channel 4 chief meteorologist John Gaughan said there were gusts of wind in the area from a brief thunderstorm passing at the time, but the highest gust was measured about 30 mph.
Workers could be seen attempting to secure the scaffolding around 5 p.m. (see below) About an hour later, the scaffolding was down.