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Phew! Window Washers Safe After Rescue at World Trade Center

New York fire officials said it was not clear whether anyone was on the scaffold.

Two window-washers were trapped for an hour on Wednesday on a scaffold dangling high off the face of 1 World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western hemisphere. Fire crews cut through a window 68 stories up and pulled them inside to safety.

The workers were on their way to the top of the tower when slack developed in one of the motorized cables, fire officials told WNBC. The slack caused the open-topped scaffold to tilt almost all the way vertical.

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The workers were in harnesses and secure while they were trapped, fire officials said. Crews used a diamond saw to cut a rough rectangle, 4 by 8 feet, through three layers of glass, then attached an extra harness to each of the men and gingerly pulled them in.

In a statement, Upgrade Services, the company the window-washers work for, said, "the cause of the incident appears to be equipment failure of the traction hoist brake mechanism that supports one side of the rig."

"This caused the scaffold to drift into an almost vertical position, leaving our men stranded until a rescue could be performed," the company said.

The men have been washing windows for 14 and five years, WNBC reported.

“They’re a lot older now than they were two hours ago,” Thomas Von Essen, a former New York fire commissioner, told the station on air.

The first office tenants moved into the tower last week, more than 13 years after the original World Trade Center was destroyed. The new tower stands 1,776 feet and 104 stories, and cost almost $4 billion to build.


— Tom Winter and Erin McClam