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  • You've taken up a job as a New York City window washer.

  • Congratulations, it's an honourable profession.

  • Sure, you can be performing death-defying feats of cleaning for a starting wage as little

  • as twelve dollars an hour.

  • But underappreciated as you are, you have a vital joband you're more committed

  • to maintaining transparency than most world governments.

  • On your first day, you face a daunting challenge: Cleaning the windows on the 47th floor of

  • a New York City skyscraper.

  • Hope you're not afraid of heights.

  • But, while you're busy being the thin Windex line between cleanliness and grime, disaster

  • strikes: You lose your footing, and tumble 472 feet/ 144 metres to the unforgiving concrete

  • below.

  • You probably assume your next stop is being scraped-up and power-washed into a gutter,

  • but nope!

  • You survived.

  • You will live to wash windows another day.

  • Seems far-fetched, right?

  • But this actually happened to 37-year-old veteran New York window washer Alcides Moreno

  • in 2007.

  • We're going to tell you the incredible story of how he survived the seemingly un-survivable

  • today.

  • First, let's talk about Moreno.

  • He arrived in the US from Ecuador in the 1990s with his wife, Rosario, and his three children.

  • This is a man who's truly committed to his job, and more than that, he downright loves

  • it.

  • When interviewed about his profession after his life-defining accident, he said “I loved

  • to see the windows really clean.

  • I liked the water and the soap, how you press the squeegee.

  • We would start at the top and clean all the way to the bottom, I loved it.”

  • It was with this intensely positive mindset that he and his younger brother, 30-year-old

  • Edgar Moreno, took on the Solow Tower apartment block in Manhattan's Upper-East Side.

  • At 50 stories and 689 feet/ 210 metres, it's a formidable structure, though still only

  • the 71st tallest building in New York.

  • The Moreno brothers took the elevator to the top floor with all their equipment.

  • The roof was dizzyingly high, even for these experienced window-washers.

  • The temperature was freezing.

  • The air was thin.

  • But this was nothing unusual for this line of work, so they just got on with it.

  • Alcides and Edgar Moreno climbed onto their 16-foot-wide/ 4.9-metre-wide, 1,250-pound

  • cleaning platform and prepared for another honest day's work.

  • But this wasn't just any other day – a nightmarish disaster was about to strike.

  • When the two brothers climbed onto the platformforgetting to first put on and fasten

  • their safety harnessesthe powerful cables that held the whole operation in place came

  • dangerously loose.

  • First, the cable on the left sidethe side where Edgar Moreno was standingcame

  • free, causing the entire platform to droop on one side and fling Edgar off of the platform

  • entirely.

  • Sadly, this isn't the inspiring tale of how two brothers survived a terrifying situation.

  • Edgar fell 472 feet/ 144 metres, reaching speeds of around 120 miles-per-hour / 193

  • kilometres-per-hour before landing in a narrow alley.

  • He landed on a wooden fence, severing his body in two and killing him instantly.

  • Edgar's death is one the 420,000 deaths that occur through falling every single year.

  • It's one of the more common accidental ways to die.

  • But Alcides didn't even have time to think about this, his mind was more focused on his

  • own seemingly-imminent mortality.

  • His side of the scaffolding came loose and began to hurtle down towards the ground like

  • a screaming comet.

  • However, unlike the tragic end of his brother, firefighters found Alcides alive in the hunk

  • of twisted metal that was once the window-washing platform.

  • Crouched down, fingers twisted in a death grip around the platform, having survived

  • by virtue of not striking his head during the fall.

  • According to witness reports, Alcides even attempted to stand.

  • The first-responders were as amazed as they were baffled to find him alive, but Alcides

  • was still in grave danger.

  • He may have survived the fall, but it wasn't by much.

  • While he was certainly luckier than Edgar, his injuries were nonetheless extensive and

  • life-threatening.

  • Alcides had suffered a traumatic head injury that left him with brain damage, as well as

  • damage to his neck, spinal column, chest, and abdomen.

  • He also had fractures to his right arm, ribs, and both legs.

  • Alcides was practically on the edge of death.

  • The firefighters slowly and gently handled him into a vehicle for transport to a nearby

  • hospital four blocks away.

  • When Alcides arrived at the hospital, he was given extensive treatment for his injuries.

  • He was put into an induced coma, and had a catheter inserted into his brain to reduce

  • dangerous swelling.

  • The doctors cut open his abdomen in order to relieve the pressure on his organs.

  • He was also transfused twenty-four pints of donated blood, which is around twice his entire

  • blood volume.

  • But the treatments didn't stop there.

  • He was also given nineteen pints of plasma, platelets, and a drug to stimulate blood-clotting

  • in order to reduce his life-threatening haemorrhaging.

  • He was also given a tracheotomy surgery and a ventilator in his throat, as well as nine

  • different orthopaedic surgeries.

  • Alcides' condition was so fragile throughout most of this process that the doctors couldn't

  • even move him into the operating theatre.

  • When later discussing the nature of Alcides' recovery, Dr. Herbert Pardeswho was president

  • and CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital at the timesaid, “If you're looking

  • for a medical miracle, this certainly qualifies.”

  • And Dr. Pardes wasn't exaggerating here, either.

  • According to the chief surgeon of New York-Presbyterian, Dr. Phillip Barie, the death rate from falling

  • three stories is around fifty percent.

  • At ten stories, the amount of people who survive are statistically insignificant.

  • Alcides was a complete, statistical outlier.

  • Alcides Moreno remained in his medically-induced coma for three weeks.

  • He finally spoke on December 7th of 2007, to Rosario, who'd remained in his room and

  • kept him company throughout the recovery process.

  • Because of the head trauma Alcides experienced, he didn't even remember the accident happening.

  • He did, however, deduce that his brother had died.

  • Still, in spite of his brother's tragic death, Alcides Moreno was lucky to be alive

  • after the whole ordeal.

  • After a few more spinal surgeries and another surgery to help reconstruct his abdominal

  • wall, he'd almost fully recovered.

  • Naturally, the authorities looked into what might have caused this accident in the first

  • place.

  • The investigations into the circumstances of the incident found that the platform and

  • cables hadn't been properly maintained over time.

  • And the new motorised cables, responsible for lowering the platform down the side of

  • the building, hadn't been properly anchored to the top of the building.

  • It was a perfect recipe for the worst-case scenario.

  • Initially, the investigators also placed some of the responsibility for the accident on

  • Alcides and Edgar - Claiming that the fact they weren't wearing their harnesses during

  • the accident made them at least somewhat culpable for what happened.

  • However, this line of reasoning was later dropped, because the investigators couldn't

  • prove that the brothers weren't just testing the platform before applying their harnesses

  • and getting back on.

  • Anyway, back to the story.

  • The real question on everyone's mind right now is how Alcides Moreno survived falling

  • 472 feet/ 144 metres from the 47th floor of the Solow Building.

  • The answer is honestly still unclearmany doctors and first-responders believe that,

  • by all rights, Alcides should absolutely be dead right now.

  • But some possibilities can be found in science, and in Moreno's basic window washer training.

  • When asked about why he thought he was able to survive his ordeal, he credited the fact

  • he was trained to lay flat to the platform and cling onto it during his sudden descent

  • towards the New York City streets below.

  • The much larger surface area of the platform Alcides was clinging to likely offered air

  • resistance that slowed the speed of his descent, compared to his brother.

  • Edgar's relatively small surface area had him fire down towards the earth like a bullet

  • with little resistance.

  • The physics of air resistance gave Alcides a fighting chance against the forces of gravity.

  • Some speculated that perhaps the platform bounced against one of the surrounding buildings,

  • slowing the fall, though this was never conclusively proved.

  • The platform itself may have also acted as a kind of buffer between the force of the

  • crash and Alcides' body, both dampening the overall force and distributing it evenly

  • across his body.

  • Edgar, on the other hand, took the full force himself on the razor-edge of a fence, essentially

  • assuring catastrophic physical damage.

  • Alcides and Edgar essentially provide perfect examples of ideal and nightmare scenarios

  • for falling from a great height without a parachute.

  • We can look at a few similar examples to see if they provide any answers for how someone

  • could survive such an insane fall.

  • Joshua Hanson, a bar owner from Wisconsin, drunkenly crashed out of the window of a Minneapolis

  • hotel's seventeenth floor.

  • Hanson suffered a broken leg and a collapsed lung, but walked away fine from the hospital

  • a week later.

  • This is still a miraculous feat of survival, but Alcides fell thirty floors more, so it's

  • a little difficult to compare the two.

  • Likewise, Tim Stilwell is thankfully still well after falling from the roof of his apartment

  • building in 2013.

  • His fall was broken by the roof of a nearby building, allowing him to survive with some

  • broken bones.

  • While having a more solid scientific answer would certainly be more satisfying than maintaining

  • the mystery, the fact is, the greatest factor in surviving any insane fall is pure luck.

  • There is no one solid, logical reason that Alcides Morena was able to survive his 47-story

  • fall, baffling everyone from scientists to doctors to first responders.

  • Alcides and Rosario attribute a lot of his tremendous luck to the grace of God, owing

  • to the fact that Alcides, in the words of Rosario, has never wished anything bad on

  • anyone.

  • In the aftermath of the incident, Edgar Morena was buried in the brothers' home country

  • of Ecuador.

  • In the few years following, Alcides struggled greatly with survivor's guilt.

  • He'd been close with his brother his whole lifethe two of them having lived together

  • in New Jersey and worked as a team since the early 1990s.

  • Alcides saidLosing him was a big deal for me…I believe I felt melancholic for

  • about three years.

  • That's how long it took me to recover and accept his death.

  • It was like losing a child, because he was younger than me.”

  • While nothing could bring back Alcides' brother, he did at least achieve some financial

  • justice for the company that caused his death.

  • Rather than implicating Alcides and Edgar in their own tragedy, a Manhattan Supreme

  • Court Judge ruled in their favour, finding Tractelthe company responsible for installing

  • the safety features on the window-washing platformliable for poorly installing

  • the motorised cables.

  • They also found that the Solow building was liable for its inadequate safety features.

  • As a result, the two entities settled the matter with Alcides out of court for a large

  • sum of money.

  • Alcides Morena has since moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and had a fourth child with Rosario.

  • Morena has said that the warm, dry air in Arizona is better for his bones, but he still

  • misses the people of New York City.

  • He no longer works for health reasons, but has maintained that he doesn't have a fear

  • of heights because of the incident.

  • Looking back on his experience, Alcides said, “I have all the scars on my body and because

  • of the back injuries, I can't run, only walk.

  • I'm not like I used to be.

  • But thank God I can walk, that is amazing for me.”

  • And Alcides has put his life and his ability to walk to good use.

  • In the years since his accident, he's supported his children in going to college and taken

  • part in 5K runs for charity.

  • While he has said that life could never truly be the same, he's regained around eighty

  • percent of the person he used to be.

  • And for someone who fell to what seemed like certain death from the top of a 50-story building,

  • eighty percent is honestly pretty darn good.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of The Infographics Show!

  • If you're looking forward to falling for even more of our content about amazing survival

  • situations, why not check outPlane Crash Leads To Unbelievable Survival Storyand

  • Survival Tips That Will One Day Save Your Life.”

  • In the meantime, watch your step.

  • It's a long way down from here.

You've taken up a job as a New York City window washer.

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How a Window Washer Survived a 47 Story Fall - True Story

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/28
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