Workers rescued after ‘scaffolding malfunction’ in downtown Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Workers have been rescued after a “scaffolding malfunction” left “two people hanging from ropes” at a construction site in downtown Austin.

Austin Fire says there were no injuries; the two workers just appeared to be stuck and couldn’t “get out of the situation.” Austin Fire Department rescued the workers using a “team-based pick-off” technique, the third option rescue crews used to get the workers down safely.

The agency initially tweeted about the incident at 10:23 a.m., saying it was in the area of 1200 N. Interstate 35 service road on the southbound side, east of the freeway near East 12th Street.

  • A "scaffolding malfunction" at a construction site left 2 people "hanging from ropes" near I-35 and East 12 Street, ATCEMS said Thursday. (KXAN photo/Ed Zavala)
  • A "scaffolding malfunction" at a construction site left 2 people "hanging from ropes" near I-35 and East 12 Street, ATCEMS said Thursday. (KXAN photo/Ed Zavala)
  • A "scaffolding malfunction" at a construction site left 2 people "hanging from ropes" near I-35 and East 12 Street, ATCEMS said Thursday. (KXAN photo/Ed Zavala)

ATCEMS said after consulting with an “experiment expert” on scene, the equipment wasn’t responding. A guidewire that helps raise and lower the scaffolding got caught in the mechanism, causing it to stop responding and stranding the two workers on.

A technician tried to troubleshoot the machinery’s issue with AFD personnel and the workers, but when that didn’t work, the only choice left was for rescuers to tether the workers to them and use a rope to slowly get to the ground on a very windy day.

AFD Assistant Chief Brandon Wade said the department has a specialized team that deals with situations like this.

“Our special operations division trains every day in a variety of exercises,” Wade said. “They have 16 different disciplines they do, and high angle rescue is one of them. All of the training they do pays off on days like this.”

The first worker was rescued just after 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The second worker rescue was complete just before 1 p.m.

The scaffolding company, Bilt Rite Scaffold, said it is “extremely grateful” to AFD crews that helped the workers to safety. The company is thankful for “their bravery, speed to action and professionalism.”

Bilt Rite also explained how some of the scaffolding safety mechanisms operate.

“Scaffold hoists have redundant internal safety mechanisms that prevent the swing stage scaffolds like this from an uncontrolled or rapid descent. In today’s case, it appears that this safety mechanism(s) functioned as designed. We expect to know more once an extensive and thorough examination of all components has been completed,” the company wrote in an email.

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