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Recounting a scary scaffolding situation

MSNBC-TV's Rita Cosby interviews a rescuer and a witness who saw what happened when winds became too strong for a window washing scaffold high over Denver.
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Two window washers in downtown Denver had a whirlwind ending to their day on Wednesday.  Twelve stories above the city street, the workers whipped around on the scaffold for about 10 minutes in extremely windy conditions.  Brave firefighters arrived on the scene to pull them safely back into the building. 

Jim Hunsaker with the Denver Fire Department and Benny Smith, who witnessed the event joined Rita Cosby on ‘Live and Direct’ to explain what happened in those terrifying minutes. 

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY, HOST, ‘LIVE AND DIRECT’:  Benny, tell us what you saw.

BENNY SMITH, WITNESSED RESCUE:  It was amazing.  Just seeing the footage, one of my co-workers, David Ball called me over to the window and said, “You've got to take a look at this.”

And as soon as I went over to the window, it was just chaos.  These two guys were hanging onto the side of the scaffolding for dear life.  And as soon as he let go of one side of it, it picked up.  It pulled him about 45 feet off of the base of the window, flipped him around 180 degrees, put him back against one side of the window, and that just kept on going back and forth and back and forth for a good five to ten minutes.  It was intense.  It was incredible.

COSBY:  You know, and I understand we've got some video from your cell phone that you were able to capture. What was that like? Were you just horrified at what you were seeing? 

SMITH:  At first, I just didn't believe what I was seeing.  And then, once I realized, I was like, “Maybe I should grab my phone,” and went over and grabbed my cell phone, and just saw all of this take place.  And at one time, when I was looking at one of the guys, he looked right at me.  And it just looked like he was just in hell.  He didn't know what to do. 

COSBY:  Were you calling 911 or trying to get help, too? 

SMITH:  There were a lot of our co-workers that were dialing 911.  They were really quick to be responsive for that.  Yes, it was amazing. 

COSBY:  It is amazing. 

You know, Jim, tell us how the department sort of finally brought these guys to safety.  How did they get down, Jim? 

JIM HUNSAKER, DENVER FIRE DEPARTMENT:  Well, this was really a big team effort, right from the dispatchers onto the point where they pulled the workers off the scaffold. 

Four companies responded to this with a district chief.  And two of the companies, or actually three of the companies, went up inside while one of the companies directed operations from the street. 

They counted the number of stories.  They sent troops up there to that floor.  And basically, they were moving back and forth on that floor, waiting for the opportunity that finally did present itself.  The scaffolding poked through one of the windows, almost perpendicular to the building.  And two of the firefighters grabbed the end of the scaffolding. 

They really didn't have time to tie in, because of the time constraints here.  And so, when they did that, other firefighters were behind them and held onto them and kept them from being pulled out of the window, if that scaffolding was to take off again. 

COSBY:  I mean, you know, Benny, when you saw this whole thing, how long did the whole thing last?  And did you see the rescuers afterwards by any chance? 

SMITH:  Oh yes, we saw it from start to finish.  It lasted about 10 minutes.  I mean, the fire crew, they were there within minutes.

And afterwards, I mean, just seeing the glass fall from the windows and, you know, the scaffolding still banging around, it was a sight to see.  I mean, those poor guys, they were in for the ride of their life.  And with that, I was amazed.  I was truly amazed to see that that was happening right across the street from my work. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.