SINGAPORE - When a man injured his leg while working in a tower crane 70m up in the air, a Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) and a group of firefighters had to figure out the safest way to bring him down.
Their eventual plan required more than two hours to be set in place, but it proved a masterstroke, as they took just five minutes to get the worker safely down to the ground.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Tuesday (Nov 16), Lieutenant Ahmad Faizal Abdul Hanan, 45, the Dart rota commander who oversaw the operation, said: "The team did well that day because they did the assessment and everyone performed their tasks, which led to good planning and a successful rescue mission.
"The information that each of them provides is very important because without it, we can't plan well," he added.
Lt Ahmad Faizal was among the Dart specialists from Kallang Fire Station and SCDF firefighters from Central Fire Station who spoke to ST about the rescue operation at a construction site in Beach Road last Friday.
Sergeant 3 Keith Lye, who is cross-trained as an emergency medical technician, and a fellow firefighter were the first to reach the stricken worker, climbing up a cat ladder with a 5kg medical bag and proceeding to treat him while keeping steady on a metre-wide platform of the crane.
He said: "The worker was groaning in pain. There was no open wound, so we suspected his right shin was fractured. We needed to bandage and immobilise the injury to prevent further aggravation."
Two Dart specialists then made their way up with anchoring devices, various height rescue equipment and a 200m-long rope weighing about 15kg as the mission to lower the injured man kicked into motion. They secured the rope to the crane, and Dart specialists on the ground attached a battery-operated power ascender to it - the device helps rescuers ascend and descend, and also moves equipment up and down.
Finding a landing spot for the rescuers and the worker in the construction site was another hurdle to cross.
Said Dart section commander Warrant Officer 2 Azmir Ali Ameer Ali: "Picking a landing spot was quite tricky, as there was scaffolding around the crane. We decided the top of the multi-storey carpark (alongside) at Shaw Tower was the most viable option, as it was vertically below, even though we had to clear a portion of the 2.5m-tall scaffolding there.
"We requested for the construction workers to dismantle the scaffolding, which took about 35 minutes."
With the landing area cleared, Dart specialist Warrant Officer 1 Muhammad Umar Al-Siddiq Abdul Rahman rappelled down with the worker, who was secured on a rescue stretcher, negotiating a few steel beams jutting out of the crane structure along the way.
Said WO1 Umar, 34: "At this point, the injured man is facing out and he is seeing this at a height, so I had to constantly assure him that he was safe, we were there for him and that he would live."
Safely on the ground, the worker, who has not been identified, was taken to Singapore General Hospital.
The entire rescue operation took 2hr 45min and involved 25 personnel from the SCDF in total, including the ambulance crew.
Lt Ahmad Faizal said: "We were lucky it was not raining or too windy, as that would make the rescue even more dangerous.
"While different operations have different risks, we focus on training, teamwork and safety to mitigate these risks."