Two construction workers rescued in downtown Sarasota after cable breaks on ‘swing stage,’ leaving them hanging outside 18-story building

Other workers break out windows of DeMarcay Private Residences to bring them inside

This is a photo of the DeMarcay Private Residences project underway in May 2023. Image from Google Maps

On Feb. 14, two construction workers at the site of the DeMarcay Private Residences — located at 33 S. Palm Ave. in downtown Sarasota — were rescued after a cable broke on the “swing stage” on which they were standing to add stucco to the exterior of the structure, a Sarasota County Fire Department report said.

The men were outside the 12th and 13th floors of the condominium tower, the report added; they were about 60 feet in the air.

Other construction workers ended up bringing the men into the building by breaking windows, the report explained, even though members of the Fire Department’s Special Operations team had deployed to the site, along with firefighters/medics.

“The two victims were wearing fall protection harnesses and

were secured to their lifelines by fall arrest lanyards,” the report said. The other cable had continued to support the stage after rescue personnel arrived, the report added, but both workers were suspended in the air, the report indicated.

The Fire Department received the alarm at 11:22 a.m. on Feb. 14, with the Fire Station 1 crew arriving on the scene at 11:27 a.m., the report noted.

Fire Station 1 stands at 1445 Fourth St. in downtown Sarasota.

Rescue personnel made their way to the roof with rope safety equipment, the report continued. There, they established two anchors and then set up two lines to lower to the victims, “to get them secured into a life safety rope rescue system.”

As the rope was being lowered to one of the workers, the report said, other members of the construction crew, who were on the 12th floor, “began breaking windows and removed the victim from his harness to pull him in.”

Fire Department personnel on the scene had attempted to stop the workers, the report pointed out, because of the “unsafe nature of what was being done.” However, the report added, “There was a large language barrier and they would not listen to on scene personnel from the fire department or the construction company.”

The red balloon marks the location of the DeMarcay Private Residences in downtown Sarasota. Image from Google Maps

By the time Fire Department personnel reached the 12th floor, the report continued, the construction worker already was “halfway through the opening so [the other workers] were allowed to proceed with the rescue.”

That victim “was in medical distress,” the report added, so Advanced Life Support team members were requested to proceed to the 12th floor, where they evaluated the victim.

The report indicates that that worker was transported to a hospital.

From a 12th floor window, the report continued, other rescue personnel could see the second victim without any obstructions. That individual “was able to stand on a window ledge, which reduced the hazard of being suspended in a harness,” the report noted.

Rescue personnel lowered to the victim a life safety line with a carabineer attached, which the victim hooked to his harness, the report said.

Nonetheless, the report indicated, the victim did not attach the carabineer properly, so the rescue personnel were unable to lift him. Then, as the firefighters on the roof were preparing to lower a rescuer to the victim, construction workers broke out a 13th floor window next to that victim and pulled him inside the building, the report said.

Upon evaluation of that victim, the report noted, rescue personnel found “he was not in distress.”

After the rescues were completed, the report added, Fire Department personnel “determined that the swing stage needed to be secured to prevent it from falling to the ground due to heavy wind gusts.” Therefore, the report continued, the Fire Department’s Special Operations personnel and the construction crew worked together to secure the swing stage to the building with rope and two anchor points, one on the roof the building; the other, on the 13th floor.

The contractor already “had a crane en route to lower the swing stage safely to the ground,” the report added. The crane was coming from Tampa, the report noted.

The Fire Department personnel cleared the scene at 3 p.m., the report said, with Sarasota Police Department officers and the construction company left in charge.

Altogether, the Fire Department dispatched 30 people to the scene, the report noted, with part of those serving in the Special Operations group.

The groundbreaking for the DeMarcay project, which has been planned with 39 luxury condominiums, was held in October 2019. GK Development is the builder, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. That company is based in Dunedin, its website says.