OKC firefighters rescue window washers near top of Devon Tower
Oklahoma City firefighters made a quick rescue Wednesday morning of two window washers who took a wild, glass-smashing ride near the top of the 50-story Devon Tower.
Benny Fulkerson, spokesman for the Oklahoma City Fire Department, said it was “a very tense and scary situation” before firefighters rescued the workers by lowering ropes from the roof. The window washers secured the ropes to the basket, which stabilized the platform before the men were rescued.
Fulkerson said there was no indication of how the basket became loose. It swung broadly, breaking windows, and glass fell onto Sheridan Avenue, which had to be shut down near the building during the downtown morning rush hour.
City officials said parts of Sheridan and Robinson avenues would remain closed as inspections and repairs to the tower are made. Areas below the part of the building damaged Wednesday are at risk for falling debris. The streets are expected to reopen later this week.
The Myriad Botanical Gardens were also closed until the area is considered safe.
It took fire crews about 45 minutes to rescue the two men after assessing the situation and coming up with different plans to bring the men to safety.
One of the window washers may have had a minor injury to his shoulder, but Fulkerson said both men refused further treatment after being evaluated by paramedics on scene.
Deputy Chief Mike Walker described one of the workers as “excited” while firefighters communicated with the two men.
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“The other one was very calm and just holding on,” Walker said. “They had enough conscious thought about them that they were compliant to instructions. They actually … assisted greatly with their own rescue.”
Devon Energy Corp. President and CEO Dave Hager called Wednesday’s event very unusual and very dangerous, adding that the window washing unit not only broke glass as it hit the building, but "parts of the building came loose and came down.”
Hager said the two workers, who are contractors, were “resting comfortably at home” after their ordeal.
“We’re thinking of them and their families this evening as they recover from this incident,” Hager said.
He said it was too early to know what led to the equipment malfunctioning and that a very thorough investigation is underway. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has launched an investigation into Wednesday’s incident.
Wednesday’s high-rise incident is the second such dramatic rescue by Oklahoma City fire crews this year. On Feb. 12, scaffolding holding two painters at the Tower Hotel broke, leaving the men dangling by their harnesses from the 12th floor of the building.
Staff writer Robert Medley contributed to this story.