A worker on one of the upper floors of the Gateway 4 building glanced out an office window one blustery day — March 16, 1971 — and saw a ruddy-cheeked man in a hooded sweatshirt outside, 19 floors above the sidewalk.
The man was holding up a note. “Help,” it read.
This is what happens when window washers like Ray Camp have a bad day. Their electric scaffolding stalls and leaves them hanging. Rescue workers rush to the scene. People gather on the street below and squint into the sky to watch the drama unfold.
In this case, police on the roof lowered ropes and harnesses down to Ray and his brother Lyle (the two always worked as team). Lyle had trouble getting into his harness. It was too small. Judging by the pictures we’ve seen, it gave him a monster wedgie.
Then, 10 officers grabbed a rope and tugged until first Ray and then Lyle was hoisted to safety. The brothers decided to take the rest of the day off.
We found in our archives two photo sequences of such rescues. Both sets of images give us chills.
On May 3, 1991, one window washer was dumped out of a work scaffold that suddenly shifted between the fourth and fifth floors of what was then the Pittsburgh National Bank building. William Eikey dangled from a safety belt and clung to the side of a building.
His coworker Charles Crane remained inside the scaffold, which was hanging vertically. When he felt he was being shocked by the scaffold’s electric motor, Crane jumped free and, like, Eikey, hung from a safety belt and awaited rescue.
Bank employees watched as Pittsburgh firefighters raised an aerial ladder. Rescue workers worried about the scaffold, which twirled dangerously in winds that gusted to 36 miles an hour. The scaffold slammed into the building and shattered a double-paned window.
More than 1,000 people jammed Wood Street to watch. They cheered when Eikey and Crane were brought down 70 feet to safety.
Crane vowed to return to the job. “I’m going up there again,” he said. “Just look out for me.”
Eikey wasn’t so certain. “I’ll think about it,” he said.