Mechanics at a Southern California auto shop arrived at work Tuesday to hear what they thought were far-off cries for help.
But no matter how carefully they listened, they couldn’t narrow down where the voice was coming from.
After police arrived to help with the search, the group realized with growing horror that the screams were just 8 inches away.
A woman wearing no clothes had fallen into an 8-inch gap between Tim’s Auto Repair and Smog and a neighboring commercial building. It was unclear how the woman fell into the small gap, but a local property owner told KTLA in Los Angeles that homeless people sometimes sleep on the roof of the two buildings.
However the woman had gotten between the walls, her plight soon became a major challenge for the Orange County Fire Technical Rescue Team, as they quickly ruled out various ways to reach the woman.
Sean Doran, an Orange County Fire Authority’s captain and public information officer, told Coffee or Die Magazine that the team quickly realized that the space was not wide enough for anyone to be lowered for a rescue from the roof. Their only option would be to cut through the walls. After making sure they weren’t going to damage the wall’s structural integrity and that no power or water lines were in the area they’d be cutting, the rescue team marked the 8-inch-thick concrete wall as close to the woman as they could without hurting her, Doran said.
“They boxed out landmarks for them in terms of where they can cut and where they can’t cut and their hole of attention,” Doran said. “But the hole that was ultimately cut was right next to her where they could just grab her and pull her through it.”
The team drilled holes for inserting cameras into the space to ensure they wouldn’t accidentally injure the woman with the massive cement saw required for the job. They used a large fan to keep the space ventilated for the woman.
— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) July 13, 2021
Tools were used to hold the woman still so she wouldn’t be injured during the rescue. Personnel were placed on either side of the crevice, and police officers were stationed on top, allowing the team to keep eyes on the woman from all angles to ensure her safety.
After several hours of hard work, the team pulled a 3-foot-square, 8-inch-thick piece of concrete from the wall. Medics performed a basic assessment on the woman before assisting her out of the space.
“When we got her out she was pretty dirty and it was pretty hard to tell what she looked like, how old she was, roughly,” Capt. Thanh Nguyen, told KTLA. “The main focus at that point was just to get her into the ambulance so our paramedics could get better lighting and just a real good look at what kind of injuries she had.”