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Firefighter Recalls Emotional Rescue
A man had been alone for an hour clinging to a bridge support before finally seeing a sign of hope drop down from the bridge next to him.
The man had been one of two men working in an aerial lift truck at a bridge construction project along Interstate 35 when a train hit the lift. One man was thrown 200 feet, while the other was thrown onto the bottom of the bridge and was wedged under the bridge.
Firefighter Neil Weglarz was the man lowered down from the bridge to get to the man. He remembers the look in the man's eyes.
"That look of 'Oh, I'm going to be alright,' or 'I'm going to get down' -- that look of relief that someone is finally here to get me," said Weglarz.
Weglarz said he could also then see the man was struggling to hold his grip on the bridge.
"He was wedged, one leg was over a pillar. He kind of had his arm wedged, and he looked cold and he looked scared," said Weglarz. "With the cold, I don't think he would have held on much longer. I think his body would have just shut down from holding himself up."
Weglarz and three other members of the West Des Moines team trained in this type of high angle rope rescue used the boom on an end loader on the bridge to get their rope system out away from the bridge, but the lowering and lifting was actually done by the other rescue team members who used specialized equipment to get him as close as possible to the man.
" I asked him if he was alright, and he was -- so I said if you give me a minute, I'll get you down," said Weglarz.
Since the man already had a safety harness on, Weglarz hooked up to him and the man jumped into his arms. In less than a minute, they were safely lowered to the ground.