A worker who was trimming a tree fell and dangled helplessly 40 feet in the air at the end of his safety line for about an hour Friday before being rescued. The emergency began while the worker and a second man were trimming a tree at a home in the 100 block of Brecks Lane in the Greenville area.
The 43-year-old tree trimmer, who is in business with the second worker, was standing in the V where the tree trunk branched into two, when he slipped on some ivy growing there, said Wilmington Police Department spokesman Capt. Michael R. Schaal.
“When he fell, his harness — that was secured to the tree by rope — slid up on his body to a point under his armpits, rendering him helpless and hanging by the rope, unable to raise or lower himself,” he said.
The unidentified worker was taken to Christiana Hospital, where he was treated for injuries that did not appear to be life threatening, officials said.
The second man, also unidentified by authorities, called 911 on his cell phone at 10:45 a.m.
Elsmere Fire Company was dispatched and volunteers found the man hanging about 40 feet above the ground. He was suspended at the end of 5 to 8 feet of safety line, Schaal said.
The first team to arrive began to assess the worker’s medical condition, but they did not have a ladder long enough to reach him.
“Realizing the complexity of the situation and the limited resources available to them, Elsmere firefighters requested the assistance of the Technical Rescue Team of the Wilmington Fire Department,” Schaal said.
The Wilmington Rescue 1 and Ladder 1 teams responded to the rescue site, about a half-mile outside city limits.
Battalion Chief Michael Donohue directed the teams that worked in sweltering heat, extending an aerial ladder to the worker, allowing firefighters to reach him.
“His breathing was OK, but everything was getting numb, his hands were blue,” Schaal said. “He was compressed.”
Without relief, Schaal said, the man could have died or suffered from shock or potentially deadly heat stress. “The heat was just unbearable,” he said.
As neighbors watched, rescuers reached the man and strapped him in a new type of emergency harness, made of webbing that resembles a life-jacket and wraps around a person’s body, Schaal said.
A separate line was run to the tree and rescuers slowly lowered the man to the ground.
Some spectators applauded, Schaal said. “They were very happy and so were we.”
Donohue declared the situation under control at 11:43 a.m., with rescuers ending the ordeal just shy of an hour from the initial emergency report.
An ambulance crew from Five Points Fire Company and the New Castle County Paramedics treated the worker and took him to the hospital.
Residents of the home where the rescue occurred could not be reached for comment Friday.
The rescue had special significance for those involved after an incident last week when a man who fell from a tree in Milltown died.
“That was fresh on everybody’s mind,” Schaal said.