Four men who became trapped while washing windows outside of the 35th floor of the Vdara Hotel at CityCenter on Wednesday afternoon were safely rescued by firefighters who rappelled from the roof to the workers and brought them down one by one.
The unidentified window washers, three in their 40s and one in his 20s, called 911 shortly before noon after the mechanism that raises and lowers the washer box they were in malfunctioned.
The last window washer was safely strapped into a harness and, while connected to a firefighter by a rope, was brought down to the third level of the Vdara shortly before 3 p.m.
Medical personnel awaited the workers, who were all reportedly in good health.
Although the high-rise drama might have seemed like heroics to onlookers, Las Vegas Fire Department spokesman Tim Szymanski said the group of firefighters from his agency train every day for such a mission. The firefighters compose the Technical Rescue Team that specializes in swift-water rescues, high-angle rescues, such as the one performed Wednesday, and cave-in rescues, Szymanski said.
"We’ve got the best team," Szymanski said, noting the unit is the only one in Southern Nevada. "They already know what to do because they’ve been practicing constantly."
In all, 24 firefighters, including Clark County personnel, were on the roof of the Vdara, which is more than 50 stories high, Clark County Battalion Chief Eric Poleski said.
The four men stuck outside the Vdara were on the west side of the building, unseen by the legion of tourists on the Strip.
Yvette Monet, a spokeswoman for MGM Resorts International, said in a statement that officials are investigating why the crane that held the window washers malfunctioned.
"We appreciate the excellent efforts of the Fire Department personnel," she said. "The matter will be reviewed by hotel safety officials as part of the company’s standard policy."
Poleski said rescuers had cellphone contact with the window washers from the beginning.
The first firefighter who rappelled down to the workers at 1:15 p.m. brought them water. So, although the summer heat was intense, the workers stayed hydrated throughout the three-hour ordeal, Poleski said.
Poleski said the rescue was methodical because all of the window washers were in good health, and rescuers knew that.
While standing on Frank Sinatra Drive between the Bellagio and Aria as the last window washer was rescued, Poleski said no step was skipped in the rescue process.
"This equipment is set up, double-checked and triple-checked before anybody goes over the edge," he said. "It might seem like this is taking a long time. … Right now, because everyone is doing well, we’re being very methodical and very careful and doing things on a very step-by-step basis."
Poleski said the rescue mission, although unorthodox, went off without a hitch.
"Its not in human nature to lower yourself off the side of a building," he said, adding, "I feel really good about it."
Contact reporter Antonio Planas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638.