Video: Firefighters rescue man impaled on security gate

The man, who was high on drugs, was cut free; the fence was still piercing his midsection when he was rushed to a hospital


Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — For 20 minutes a man hung skewered through the crotch by a foot-long spike atop a security gate at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department while a quick-thinking crew devised a plan for his delicate and complicated rescue.

The man was cut free, and with the fence still piercing his midsection was rushed by ambulance to Broward Health Medical Center.

He survived and has remained hospitalized since the Sunday evening incident, Fort Lauderdale Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Heiser said Wednesday.

"So many things could have gone wrong," Heiser said. "It was really good teamwork. They got him off the fence fast."

The cringe-inducing episode began about 8:20 p.m. Sunday when the man tried to scale a 10-foot electronic rolling gate surrounding the police department's parking lot, Heiser said.

Because the Fort Lauderdale police records department is closed Wednesdays, the incident report listing the man's name and age could not be obtained.

When the man mounted the gate, he fell onto one of the 14-inch security spikes that line the top. The wrought-iron spike pierced the man's crotch and exited through his buttocks, Heiser said.

Fort Lauderdale firefighters who were on hand refueling a truck heard the man's screams, then saw him impaled on the fence.

"He was hanging there with his legs on one side and the rest of his body on the other," Heiser said.

Before he tried to climb the fence, the man had told nearby police officers he was high on Flakka, Heiser said.

Flakka is a fairly new street drug laced with heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and pyrrolidinovalerophenone (or PVP-Alpha), court records show. It induces paranoia, psychosis and extreme combativeness, drug experts say.

"The only people I've seen on it are in the back of an ambulance or at the morgue," Heiser said. "It's just a nasty, nasty drug that turns people into nasty people and dangerous people."

First responders have been "seeing more of it," Heiser said. "We're trying to track it with police to see if there's an increase in usage. We report every incident to Fort Lauderdale police."

The man remained conscious and rather calm throughout the harrowing rescue, Heiser said.

Because the man was stuck atop an automated entrance gate that could be activated by the weight of a vehicle, a police officer clipped his handcuffs around the gate to prevent it from accidentally opening.

"That was quick thinking," Heiser said. "It very likely saved the guy's life. Any sudden movement could have severed arteries or veins."

The crew next supported the man to ensure that his body would not move as they worked to cut free the section of the fence that was skewering his midsection.

"They had to build two tables — one on each side — so he didn't fall," Heiser said. "Basically his midsection was a fulcrum and any weight change on either side had to have been excruciating."

To ensure the circular saw used to cut the fence didn't heat up the metal and burn the man, the crew wrapped ice packs and wet cool towels around the metal, Heiser said.

With the fence still in him, he was placed on a stretcher and rushed to a hospital.

"It was a very delicate ride to the hospital," Heiser said. "You think it's bad enough to have a fence impaled in you, but then if you don't have people skilled enough and trained to treat you properly, you're one sneeze away from possibly bleeding to death or having permanent damage."

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