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Workers Saved After Scaffold Breaks

August 25, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two workers dangling off the side of a building, their safety harnesses holding them 120 feet above the ground, were rescued by a policeman and a fireman who rappelled down from the roof.

A scaffolding suspension cable snapped Tuesday while Jose Lopez, 35, and Roberto Hernandez, 33, were waterproofing the 17-story building.

Both men were wearing safety harnesses attached to ropes tethered to the roof of the building. They dangled 12 stories up for about 20 minutes.

``All of a sudden, the machine stopped and my back was slamming the wall,″ said Lopez.

Shirley Toro, a resident in the building, said she heard Hernandez shouting in Spanish that the rope was too thin and was about to break.

Police Officer Romano Amleto rappelled down the building and hitched Lopez’s safety harness to his own rope, despite concerns that it might not support both men. Amleto lowered himself and Lopez to the ground as about 200 onlookers cheered.

Firefighter Thomas Foley came to Hernandez’s aid, attaching the worker’s harness to his rope and guiding him to a ladder on a fire truck.

``I don’t get impressed much,″ said police Sgt. Mike Curtain, who supervised the rescue. ``But this was one of the most heroic things I’ve seen.″

Hernandez was treated at a hospital for neck pain and released. Lopez was admitted with a deep finger cut and other minor injuries.

Buildings department spokesman Paul Wein said Hernandez and Lopez acted properly and he considered the matter an accident. He said the department had no plans to investigate.

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