FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Around 3:30 on Monday afternoon, four workers cleaning and inspecting the bridges along the New River below I-95 were on a suspended scaffolding when it suddenly gave way.
Three of the workers were left dangling in the air while a fourth worker plummeted to the ground and landed in the pile of broken scaffolding, according to Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue officials.
The worker who fell to the ground was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center while rescue crews safely removed two of the hanging workers.
A fourth worker, Rafael Moreno, was suspended for more 90 minutes while strapped into his safety harness.
“I just wanted to get down,” Moreno said. “It was a scary feeling.”
Enter the Fort Lauderdale Fire Technical Rescue Team. Firefighter James Chioffe repelled down from a catwalk underneath I-95 and tried to put Moreno at ease.
“You want to make him feel comfortable,” Chioffe said. “Get him the confidence that we know what we’re doing and we’re gonna get home safely.”
After switching Moreno from his harness and into a safety harness, Chioffe brought Moreno to the ground. Chioffe described what cameras couldn’t see — the dangers of trying to assemble a system of ropes to pull off the rescue while laying unsecured on a catwalk.
“You’re all the way up there on a catwalk that’s moving,” Chioffe said. “Every car you car hear, every truck you can hear, the train blasting its’ horns you can hear, everything’s shaking and we gotta job to do.”
And they did it. The questions focus on why this suspended scaffolding suddenly gave way. The Florida Department of Transportation said the men work for V & M Erectors out of Pembroke Pines. The DOT said for at least four months they’ve been cleaning, painting and inspecting the bridges over the New River along I-95. But on Monday something went wrong.
“The cables that were lifting the scaffolding just snapped,” Moreno said. “We don’t know it was so fast. It was four of them — each corner. Three of us were just hanging. And I seen my buddy falling on top of the scaffolding. (It was) bad.”
Fortunately Moreno said it appears his buddy will recover.
It was a frightening accident and a daring rescue that Chioffe said is simply part of the job.
“We train on it all the time and that’s why we’re here,” Chioffe said. “We love our jobs and we love what we do.”
Fire Rescue officials tell CBS 4 there will likely be several investigations into the accident, including one by OSHA.