Skip to comments.Locked doors stopped rooftop rescue in WTC towers
Posted on 10/24/2001 8:35:42 AM PDT by dead
Dozens of people trapped at the top of the burning World Trade Centre in New York could have been airlifted to safety if doors had not been locked, it emerged today.
More than 1,000 people were trapped on the floors above where the two hijacked planes smashed into the towers. In one of the buildings, police helicopters could have landed on the roof to take people to safety.
But the doors to the roof were kept locked because a similar rescue in 1993, when a bomber tried to destroy the towers, was slammed as a "publicity stunt" by fire bosses and the Port Authority, which owned the centre, the Wall Street Journal reported.
In 1993, 28 people had been taken to safety by a helicopter which landed on the roof of one of the towers.
But afterwards the Port Authority used its exemption from local fire rules to insist that the towers' roofs were kept locked to prevent people committing suicide or launching stunts from the top.
And a turf war between the police and fire departments meant fire chiefs rejected the idea of helicopter rescues, which only one city - Los Angeles - has equipped its firefighters to carry out, with a six-strong helicopter wing.
Instead, the fire department went ahead with its policy of evacuating people down from skyscrapers and sending firefighters up to rescue them, and said the 1993 rescues could have cost lives if the helicopter had crashed.
Today the first helicopter pilot on the scene said he believed people could have been saved by a daring landing on the roof of the north tower, where the wind kept smoke from engulfing the roof, making a rescue possible.
"There was nobody on the roof," Greg Semendinger told the Wall Street Journal.
By using a hoist, he estimated dozens of people could have been taken to safety by the helicopters in the air, which included a police aircraft which came within 200 metres of the second hijacked plane to hurtle into the towers.
There were at least 700 people on the floors of the north tower above where the plane ripped into the building, and some were making calls to emergency services until the moment the tower fell.
One widow has told how her husband left a final message on her answering machine in which people could be heard shouting: "Try the roof! Try the roof!"
Richard Wright, a helicopter expert who rescued men from the North Sea around burning oil rig Piper Alpha in 1988, said a rescue would have been possible.
Wright, of the Helicopter Association International, said a helicopter rescue from fires had been carried out in much worse conditions, including at night and in storms, than was the case at the World Trade Centre.
Today New York's fire department, which lost more than 300 firefighters in the collapse of the towers, said the policy not to use helicopters may be reviewed.
"The people who were trapped above this fire were trapped," spokesman Frank Gribbon said.
"Perhaps their only recourse might have been to get to the roof, but it might not have been likely that they would make it, either.
"Up until now, we've never really had more than one floor burning in a fully-occupied high-rise building.
"Did we ever plan for something of this magnitude? No."
For one thing, we could never have imagined those buildings collapsing. And, in the chaos of that morning, how would we have known another plane wasn't on the way. The buildings collapsed so quickly. This is all speculation. It may have helped, but we'll never know for sure how effective they could've been.
That's not to say we shouldn't review the policy and that perhaps changes need to be made. But I just hope we never again have the opportunity to need/try that type of rescue.
Locks can be deactivated
I find it disturbing that they did as they were told instead of taking responsibility for their own safety. It's the same mindset that now has postal workers crying that the government won't test them for anthrax instead of making an appointment to get themselves tested. Scary..
After the attempted take-down of these buildings in 1993, ALL POSSIBLE SCENARIOS should have been considered and planning should have been done to properly deal with EACH AND EVERY ONE of them. The fact that this obviously was not done by those supposedly in charge of public safety resulting in more lives being lost than necessary is a valid point to raise. It is not "Monday morning quarterbacking" as you wish to suggest. We had a warning. Not preparing ourselves for another attack in the proper fashion is OUR fault.
I thought the same thing, so imagine my surprise the next day when I learned that Tower 2 fell after 40 minutes but Tower 1, the first tower hit, stayed up for about an hour and a half total.
Of course, I have a different problem altogether as an excuse--"lost time"--I cannot account for the hour-and-a-half after the first collapse, and have no real-time memory at all of Tower 1 coming down. Didn't see it until the next day on television repeats, when it came as a real shock.
Six weeks later I still can't fill in the blank.
And a turf war between the police and fire departments meant fire chiefs rejected the idea of helicopter rescues
Just goes to show, dont trust your life to government bureaucrats.
Could you have imagined TWO suicide bombers flying jumbo jets into the buildings, let alone one? I couldn't have.
Wonder what these cops thought that jet was doing?
It is not "Monday morning quarterbacking" as you wish to suggest. We had a warning. Not preparing ourselves for another attack in the proper fashion is OUR fault.
So, prior to September 11th, what plans had you developed for airborne rooftop rescues in the event of simultaneous hijacked airliner crashes into multiple skyscapers?