JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The video had our newsroom sitting on the edge of our seats as we watched Sky4 hover over a huge crane on Pier 35 at Blount Island Tuesday shortly before noon. The firefighters swarming a section near the top of the crane looked tiny compared to the large structure that lines the northside of the St. Johns River.
They were there responding to a call of a worker trapped on a lift that had been partially crushed by a malfunctioning elevator. The stairs were not an option so Jacksonville Fire Rescue personnel had to hoist and then lower the worker to safety.
They were 150 feet in the air, equal to 12 stories high. Lt. Allen Harvill normally would have performed the daring ride by rope to the ground with the patient, but he tapped Engineer Freddy Ortiz for the job that day. Ortiz said he had never performed a real mid-air rescue, but had trained a lot for days like that moment.
“We practice for this stuff on a regular basis,” Harvill said. “Every day, we’re out at a different building, a different parking garage, preparing for this moment. Yesterday, we were ready to go.”
Watch extended video of rescue below:
Harvill, Chief Jack Griggs and Ortiz appeared on The Morning Show on Wednesday to share details of the rescue.
Ortiz said during the “ride” to the ground, which took more than half an hour, he was trying to keep the man calm.
“I was telling him to breathe, stay calm and close his eyes so he doesn’t see the height that we’re at,” Ortiz said.
Griggs was running the special op from the top of the crane.
“It’s a big relief once on the ground, you worry about the crews, you worry about Freddy and you worry about the patient. It’s a big relief once they get everyone on the ground,” he explained.
The man who was rescued has not been identified. JFRD said he was transported to the hospital for observation and is expected to be OK. Sky4 caught the man waving to the firefighters as he was wheeled on a stretcher to an ambulance.
While Ortiz described the mid-air rescue as, “just a regular Tuesday with us,” there was nothing regular about what we watched the team do, which is why we would love to talk with the man who was rescued. We would like to share his story and his thoughts about the team that saved him with our viewers.
If you know him, please have him contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.