N.J. firefighters and EMS providers rescue impaled man at construction site
The man had fallen from a midrise building’s eighth floor to the seventh floor and had 1-inch rebar through his left hip and center chest area
By Suzette Parmley
PATERSON, N.J. — Paterson firefighters and rescue teams saved a man impaled at a construction site on Saturday.
Fire investigators said the injured civilian remained in critical but stable condition Saturday afternoon at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson.
The victim, identified only as a 50-year-old man, was reported injured at the Armory construction site at 461 Market Street on Saturday.
Rescue teams got the call at 12:15 p.m. that the man had fallen through a shaft from the eighth floor to the seventh floor of the 75-foot building. The man was impaled on a rebar through the left hip and center chest area.
“There were massive issues everywhere,” said Paterson Fire Department Chief Brian McDermott in an interview with NJ Advance Media. “It was a building under construction and trying to get access just to get to him with all the heavy tools we needed to get him out (was difficult) because he was impaled on a one-inch rebar. Two of them - one went through his hip and one right through center mass chest. And he was suspended in the air 75-feet up.”
“It was the stuff of movies – like your worst nightmare in a movie,” said McDermott.
When EMTs arrived, they stabilized the man with medicines and prevented him from sliding further down the rebar and causing further injuries.
A second rescue team gathered the jaws of life, metal saws, ropes and harnesses while other units brought more heavy saws and medical equipment up to the seventh floor, according to McDermott.
Upon reaching the man, rescue, fire and medical teams tried to gain access to the rebar beneath him using various tools.
McDermott said working with the hospital medics, the rescue team cut the rebar in seconds and cautiously lowered the patient through ladders, while caring for the rods still embedded in him.
“The professionalism and technical expertise of Paterson Fire Rescue was put to the test today and they got an A,” said McDermott. “I’m proud to say we operated with precision and with great teamwork in collaboration with each other and St. Joe’s paramedics to give the man a fighting chance.
“We used ropes, harnesses, extra tools and saws ... just to get him out,” said McDermott. “Then we had to cut the side of the building out on the construction site and suspend our guys off the side of the building so that we could get him through the side of the building and onto the tower ladder and bring him down 75 feet,” said McDermott.
“It took 40 minutes from the time of dispatch to transfer to the ambulance, which is exceptional,” said McDermott.
The Paterson Fire Department is part of the Regional Metro Urban Search and Rescue Team (MUSAR) and is highly trained in specialized rescue operations, including impalements.
The members are also EMTs “which gives the added medical component necessary to save lives,” said McDermott. “They’re used to traumatic incidents and dealing with them medically. They handle them not just as fire rescuers but from a health standpoint.”
McDermott said the patient was awake and alert following the rescue.
“The guy was talking to us at the end. His last words to us were, `God bless you,’ and thanking my guys,” said McDermott.
NJ Advance Media Reporter Jackie Roman contributed to this article.