Harrowing Ordeal Ends With Both Men Safe, Loud Cheers

YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Firefighters made an amazing high-wire rescue on Friday evening.

Two workers were trapped on the side of a 28-story senior center at 289 Nepperhan Ave. in Yonkers. They were apparently working on the facade on around the 13th or 14th floor when their scaffolding gave way.

Dennis Richmond was at a nearby bus stop when he heard a thud, then one of the men screaming.

“I called the police because I saw the two of them hanging down,” Richmond told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin. “One of them was actually standing on top of the scaffolding; the other one was actually holding on for his life.”

Suspended by their emergency harnesses, the workers dangled on the side of the building for more than an hour. Firefighters responding to the scene bashed out a nearby window, but weren’t in a position to reach the workers.

A crowd gathered, watching as a fire engine ladder fully extended – but it was not enough.

“The ladder came up about a floor-and-a-half short, so they were out of reach of that,” Yonkers Assistant Fire Chief Roger Vitolo said.

There was only one way to make the save: firefighters would have to go down the side of the building themselves, from the roof.

The men were told to be patient and stay calm by the Yonkers Emergency Services personnel at a nearby window, but the dangers were many.

“They were reaching a panic point, and they were both getting hypothermic, and there was also a thing called harness compression syndrome – if they stayed in those harnesses too long, it could actually become a life-threatening condition,” Deputy Fire Chief John Flynn said.

“We kept reassuring them every minute that they were going to be alright,” Yonkers Police Officer Jaime Molina said. “I mean they were pretty much white knuckles going there, trying to hold on. They started shivering. We tried to keep them going, as far as moving their fingers, keeping their toes going to keep the circulation going.”

Yonkers Firefighter Michael Giroux rappelled down and rescued two stranded workers after a scaffolding collapse. (Credit: CBS 2)

Barry McGooey of the Yonkers Fire Department said firefighter and rescue operations expert Mike Giroux rappelled not once, but twice, each time slowly and methodically to avoid snapping or dislodging any more of the scaffolding.

The veteran firefighter arrived with ropes – and reassurance.

“Once I hook up my safety line, I pat them on the back and say, ‘you’re okay now,’” Giroux told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.

Then he focused his attention on the lower worker.

“He seemed a little bit more panicky,” Giroux said. “We decided to take him off first, because if he really moved around a lot, it may affect the top person, the top victim.”

With the rescuer and victim now one, the slow and careful drop to the ground was textbook. The second rescue went just as well, a 90-minute drama successfully over thanks to the Yonkers Fire and Police Departments and the man who risked his life.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Giroux said. “This is just something that I was fortunate enough to be here today, I was fortunate to be picked to go over to do this.”

Cheers erupted when he brought the second man safely down.

“No words can describe this right here,” one witness said. “You don’t see stuff like this every day.”

As he took a congratulatory phone call in front of the building he scaled down, Girough was on cloud nine.

“It makes you feel great,” he said. “It makes you say that all the training you do is worth every bit of it.”

Giroux was picked for a reason – he teaches rope rescue around the country, the right man at the right time.

“This is probably the best rescue, you know, great outcome,” Giroux said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

One of the workers was taken to an area hospital. Both workers, though, were seen walking on their own power after their ordeal.

What do you make of this amazing rescue? Sound off in our comments section.

Comments (34)
  1. Heather Cree says:

    Hey!!! Good job, Mike!!!! It’s good to know that some of us did something to actually better the world after Shen!!!!! I was proud to say I went to school with you!!! Keep it up!!!! Heather (Cree)

  2. al says:

    this is why firefighters deserve a fair wage and decent benifits

  3. Ray Brassard says:

    Way to go Mike. Practice and training always pays off in the end. I am so proud of you!!!!!

  4. Heidi Walsh says:

    What an amazing rescue and what an amazing group of firefighters! Especially proud of our cousin Michael… always knew you’d be famous… should of had you autograph the wedding photos years ago! LOL… :o) So happy that you were there and that everything turned out alright!!!

  5. TeeOff says:

    what a great rescue – only fire dept crews could do that… FDNY heroes

  6. Dawn DeGironimo says:

    That’s my cousin and in true fashion Mike does wonderful work! We are very proud of you Mike keep it up. Glad all turned out alright for everyone and that everyone is safe thanks to you and your training.

  7. Joe says:

    Watch the mayor try to get a photo op with Firefighter Giroux. Big smiles, handshakes, awards. Then, even before the ink dries on the award……..more firehouse closures…..reductions of manpower….pay cuts…..

    It is sickening.

    This guy has children and a wife. Yet he climbs off the side of a 28 story building and hangs on a piece of thread to save the life of a stranger. I don’t know what’s more remarkable, the sheer guts it must have taken for Giroux to go over the building’s edge, or the politicians who tell these same heroes…”we’re taking your pension, laying off your partner, and closing your firehouse. ”

    Stick up for your local firemen. They stick up for you.

  8. Rob Mc. says:

    It’s rescues like that that tell you why firefighters are referred to as a city’s “BRAVEST”! I’m willing to bet that even properly trained people would be terrified to do the job these fine men do nearly every day! God bless them and well done guys!!!

  9. matty m says:

    it takes alot of courage to put your life on the line like that .that could of been a real tragedy thanks to all who helped in the rescue .thanks again local 7 ironworkers

  10. Bonnie Schuster says:

    Amazing rescue Mike! Way to go.. you and the rest of the firefighters did a great job… Proud of you down here in Southern New Jersey..

  11. Mayor Michael Bloomberg says:

    I think I changed my mind about taking away the Christmas bonuses from these brave heroes!

    1. Susan says:

      I am with you one hundred percent!

  12. NYPD Lieutenant, retired says:

    Remember the heroes!

  13. dingleberry says:

    thank god for charlie sheen

    1. Old Man says:

      Great Job Mike!!! dingleberry your name says it all.

  14. anthony says:

    nice job done by michael giroux got to give it to you bro

  15. abdul jabbar khan says:

    fire fighter are doing their best provided professional trainings ,facilities and danger allowance. thanx

  16. Mom says:

    Great job Mike, very proud of you and all of the firefighters that helped with this amazing rescue.

    1. Jeanne says:

      You should be so, so, so proud! God bless Mike. He is my hero!

  17. Sue Weeks says:

    Way to go Mike – Great job!

  18. Jack A Zeller says:

    Man that guys nephew that is 14 must be the coolest/ Amazing/ Sexy/ Hottest/ Just Just Awesome.

    1. JAZ says:

      The Man being to the firefighter

  19. Michelle Zeller says:

    Wow! That is amazing. WIsh I could meet him in person!

  20. Rose says:

    Riveting to watch – I was holding my breath. Firemen are the greatest ! We need to protect benefits, and pensions, and jobs – no cuts to fire stations anywhere!

  21. Kevin Feeney says:

    Spectacular rescue by Yonkers Firefighter Michael Giroux and responding members of the Yonkers Fire Department. Maybe this will be a wakeup call to the members of the public and misguided politicians who seek to strip ensions from Police Officers and FireFighters. This is not an isolated incident. This type of event happens everyday in the United States. Police Officers and Firefighters risk their lives everyday in service to others. You can’t set a price on that.

  22. Charlie Sheen says:

    You guys are messed up. I am a samurai. A JediKnight sent from the dark forces of eternal suprerficialism and a Viking of personal excremental superiority. I could have saved those guys.

  23. John A. says:

    Kudos to the firefighters who responded and rescued these 2 workers.They are to be commended,and certainly deserve the maximum salaries that are permitted to paid firefighters and police also.These brave people put their lives on the line for us every day,and are the true heroes and heroines.It is time for the media to stop wasting time on idiots like Charlie Sheen.He is not worth the ground he walks on.The media should focus on more stories such as the rescue of those 2 workers by those brave and courageous firefighters,and not waste one more comment on that clown Charlie Sheen.

    1. Ellen says:

      John A agree 100 per cent. Those firefighters are the bravest men going around, and Charlie Sheen is nothing but a clown who’s now getting all the publicity he can get. What a shame that our society honers fools like Sheen, but ignores the bravery of the police and firefighters.

      1. Nim Rodman says:

        Ya! We’re all so sick of people talking about Charlie Sheen that we’re going to talk about how sick we are of him. Or something.

  24. karen s says:

    bravo, a tough job well and safely done. watched this recovery effort live, with my dad (nypd retired) who suffers from alzheimers. he was in tears and applauded. years ago he & a nyc fireman were at a bad fire, and dad said “i wouldn’t want your job.” the fireman responded “you have a tougher job than me.” thanks to all first responders everywhere, return safely to your families.

    1. John P says:

      Must have brought back so many memories fro your dad. Hope he feels better.

  25. Z. T. Jedi says:

    Wow! Praise to the brave, all powerful professional firefighters!

  26. D. De Pinto Police Officer NJ says:

    That is why Police and fire get pensions and benifits. Lets not forget that Governors Christie and Cuomo. Great job done everyday

  27. Ellen says:

    Breaking news here in Boston. Happy that these workers are safe and sound, and my hat’s off to the fire department. God love you, your the best. Thank you God for saving these men from certain death, and thank you God for giving us such brave men and women that work for the Fire Department.

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