Crews rescue worker hanging from water tower in Virginia Beach

Posted at 3:27 PM, Nov 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-11 23:26:40-05

A worker was suspended 120 feet in the air, helpless and cold for 45 minutes as he waited for help on Monday.

Beach firefighters say the man was doing repairs on the water tower near Plaza Park when his repel system --much like a pulley-- stopped working.

That's when he fell, but he was saved by his back-up safety rope.

"It's not a comfortable position because it's not your primary line, but it saved his life in this case,” says Battalion Chief Amy Valdez.

He was safe but still dangling in the air.

A fire department rescue team rushed to help.

When two separate ladders fell short, crews climbed the tower for a rope rescue.

That's where Master Firefighter Matt Chiaverotti came in.

“He got hooked into the system, lowered down, hooked him into our system and then put him down in the bucket,” says Chiaverotti.

“You could tell he was cold. He was just fatigued. Like I said, he had been hanging there just a little over 40 minutes so he was just fatigued and ready to get down," says Chiaverotti.

Once safe on the ground, he was wheeled to an ambulance to be checked out.

There were no injuries. Fire crews say that's thanks to the man's preparation and his back-up safety equipment.

"Had he not had the system that he had, he would be in the hospital now and be treated for crush syndrome or compartment syndrome,” says Captain Jon Rigolo

Just days earlier, the team had completed tower rescue training.

"It was good to utilize our training, which is always beneficial to us and makes us feel good and rewarded with being able to do it,” says Chiaverotti.