Window Washers Rescued From Rogue Lift Atop Oklahoma City’s Tallest Building

Photo Credit: Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman. Two window washers were suspended from a broken lift before being rescued safely.

Oklahoma City, United States 16 May 2019

Two window washers were working atop a 52-story skyscraper in Oklahoma City on Wednesday morning, 15 May, 2019, when strong gusts of wind began swinging their lift wildly and uncontrollably, sending first responders on a dramatic, mid-air rescue mission that was captured on video.

“This is TERRIFYING,” tweeted a reporter from local news station KOCO-TV, as fire crews attempted to reach the workers helplessly suspended from Devon Energy Center, the tallest building in Oklahoma. Video of the incident shows the men gripping the railing of the lift as it sails through the air. Bystanders on the ground were watching in shock.

“Once we got to the top, we realized the basket was actually above the roofline,” said battalion chief Benny Fulkerson of the Oklahoma City Fire Department in a press conference. He reported that the basket had been swinging into a part of the building that projected above the roof, shattering its glass windows. “It was just a very dangerous situation,” he added.

“This type of thing happens from time to time,” Fulkerson said. “The fire department is an all-hazards response agency. We are not just firefighters. We don’t just respond to medical calls … we respond to everything, including technical rescues.”

The two workers were contractors, and not actual employees of Devon Energy, the tower’s occupant, CEO Dave Hager said in a press conference, but an emergency response team from the company was dispatched to collaborate with firefighters on the rescue, then investigate what went wrong.

Devon officials later released a statement regarding the accident. It read, in part:

“Two contract window washers were rescued by the Oklahoma City Fire Department Wednesday morning after the platform, suspended from the rooftop crane at Devon Tower, malfunctioned more than 800 feet (243 meters) above Sheridan Avenue … The cause of the incident is under investigation. Early assessments indicate damage to the exterior of the tower on several floors.”

The company also asked pedestrians and drivers to steer clear of the area where the incident occurred, and said it “will be closed until the building is inspected and secured,” as falling debris is still a concern.

Rescue leaders were understandably relieved with the outcome of the rescue effort and took turns thanking and congratulating one another. “We have a great relationship with the Devon Energy company,” said fire chief Robert Kelly, who explained that firefighters have gone through training drills to prepare for emergencies at the skyscraper.

“I’m extremely proud of our community, of how they support public safety. And I’m extremely proud of our firefighters,” Kelly continued. “The job that they did today — I was able to actually go to the roof today and watch them seamlessly work with the personnel from Devon and be able to accomplish a positive outcome in this event.”

“We’re thankful for the safety of everyone involved in this incident and rescue, and we’re particularly appreciative of the response by the Oklahoma City Police and Fire Departments,” said Hager on behalf of Devon Energy. “We’re also pleased with the quick actions of our Corporate Security and Incident Management teams.”

Hager confirmed that the two rescued workers are “resting comfortably at home, but obviously we’re thinking of them and their families this evening as they recover from this incident.”

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