Helicopter Rescues Crane Operator From Fire

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Photo: Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press

Photo: Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press

A Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter crew made a dramatic rescue of a crane operator trapped by a major fire on the new student housing complex he was helping to build in downtown Kingston, Ontario, Tuesday. Witnesses heard a series of explosions before flames engulfed the building, which had a large construction crane installed in the superstructure. Kingston is about 150 miles east of Toronto. The helicopter was called in from nearby Canadian Forces Base Trenton and the unidentified crane operator was plucked to safety a few minutes later. "This is far from routine," David Elias, a civilian public affairs officer working for the Canadian military, told CBC News. "We're normally not involved in urban rescue. The number of times we would have hoisted someone off a crane like this, I imagine we could count that on one hand. Normally we are hoisting people off of boats or mountains. He wasn't just standing on a tower crane. He was standing on a tower crane surrounded by flames." All the other workers in the building are believed to have escaped.

The Griffon helicopter, a military adaptation of the Bell 412EP, is a general-purpose helicopter used for troop transport, ground support and rescue and carries three flight crew members and a search and rescue technician on a mission like this. In this case the helicopter hovered over the extreme end of the crane arm where the operator sought refuge from the flames. The technician was lowered to the crane and attached a harness to the stranded man and they were first lifted off the crane before being winched inside. The man was taken to hospital with minor injuries. Fire officials have said propane bottles used to power construction heaters may have played a role in the fire, which spread to several other buildings and threatened a hotel.

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