The Window Cleaner Who Fell From a Skyscraper and Lived

Only half of the people who fall 3 stories survive, but from 49 stories, almost no one does. That’s why window cleaner Alcides Moreno is a miracle. Moreno and his younger brother Edgar set out to clean the windows of the 689-foot luxury Solow Tower building in Manhattan’s Upper East Side on the morning of Dec. 7, 2007. They took the elevator up to the top floor and walked out onto the roof, the temperature hovering around freezing. Moments later, disaster struck. When they climbed onto the 16-foot-wide scaffold, the cables holding it in place slipped. Edgar, who was standing on the left side of the scaffold, plummeted 472 feet, landing in a narrow alley. By the time he reached the ground, it’s estimated he would have been traveling more than 120 mph. The right side of the scaffold broke loose soon after, and Alcides started accelerating toward the ground. At street level, firefighters and paramedics found a harrowing scene. Edgar had landed on a wooden fence and was beyond help. Alcides was found crouching among a pile of twisted metal, clutching the scaffold controls, but still breathing. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and placed into an induced coma. He had sustained injuries to his brain, spinal column, chest and abdomen, and he had fractures to his ribs, right arm, and both legs. He underwent numerous operations, including having a catheter inserted into his brain to reduce swelling. Alcides woke up nearly 3 weeks later, on Christmas Day 2007, with his wife Rosario at his bedside. He had no recollection of the fall itself. An investigation into the accident found that the scaffolding had not been properly maintained and that new motorized cables hadn’t been properly anchored to the roof. Needless to say, Alcides received substantial settlement, and he and his family moved to Phoenix, Ariz., where the warmer weather is easier on his bones. He estimates he has recovered 80% of his abilities. “I’m not like I used to be, but I thank God that I can walk,” said Alcides.