Sarasota firefighter recounts his daring high-rise rescue attempt

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Sarasota County firefighter risked his life to rescue a man dangling off a building 17 stories high. It was a high-rise rescue caught on camera, and now the firefighter is sharing his story of the scary moments. 

On Sunday morning, a dangerous high-rise emergency unfolded at a construction site on US 41. Seventeen stories high on the Vue Condominium, a scaffolding platform broke off its wires and was dangling and a man was trapped.

“He was backed up, had his hands on a couple of the other cables and had his feet braced on the sides,” described firefighter Paul Zaller.

Zaller and his team made it to the roof and decided the only way to save the worker was repel down and get him.

“A fall from that height, there wouldn’t be any survival,” said Zaller.

With the help of his team, Zaller got in his harness and went over the edge.

“There was some adrenaline, there was definitely some adrenaline,” said Zaller.

“You’re talking about hanging off the side of a building with a rope between you and death, so the danger is very high,” said Lt. Jason Wilkins.

Zaller precariously made his way down.

“We judge more on not so much the clock, but on our success,” said Lt. Wilkins.

The clock was ticking and it was difficult for the construction worker to hang on. Soon enough, Zaller arrived and was able to carry him up. The cables are specially designed to hold a lot of weight. One cord on its own can hoist a car.

Thanks to a team effort, the construction worker’s life was saved.

“We’re all just thankful that the rescue went well, he’s okay, everybody on our team is okay and the call went real smooth,” said Zaller.

Zaller doesn’t see himself as a hero. He’s part of a hardworking team that was just doing their job.

“It’s a team effort and a team rescue,” said Zaller.

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