Rescuer: 'She had that look of determination'

Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 10:16am

Portland, OR (KPTV) -- A woman stuck for four hours between an apartment building and a 20-foot wall has been rescued by firefighters.

The rescue effort started around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday near Southwest Columbia Street and 12th Avenue, between the Joyce Furman building and the Gretchen Kafoury Commons.

"A woman in the courtyard has fallen into a crack between two buildings and is screaming," one 911 caller said. "No one can get to her."

The woman was alert and talking to crews as they worked to rescue her. At one point, firefighters had to reassess their plan because the concrete dust being created was causing breathing issues for the woman.

Firefighters pulled away a portion of the wall, then used airbags to create space between the walls to reach her.

With the help of some soapy water being used as lubrication, firefighters slid the woman between the walls to safety.

"That last couple feet, she had that look of determination. I think we were all pretty convinced that no matter what, she was coming out that way," said Lt. Rich Chatman. "When she got to that last foot, she looked over and she said, 'I'm coming out.'"

She celebrated once firefighters were able to get her free. She did not appear to have significant injuries, but paramedics took her away to an ambulance immediately.

"Just to see the look on her face when she got out made the effort worth it," Chatman said.

Firefighters said they had backup plans to cut the entire chunk of the wall out, but they "were hoping not to go to that."

It's still not clear how the woman ended up stuck.

Witness Kia King said she heard cries for help early in the morning and saw the woman trying to climb out of the small space.

"First, she had the grip and she was holding on," King said. "Next thing you know, she started panicking and she let go and fell down."

King said she initially saw the woman in the smoking area on the second floor.

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