Stranded crane operator rescued from massive Kingston fire 'retires'
KINGSTON, ONT. - The crane operator plucked from the end of a 43-metre-high construction crane by a military helicopter crew during Tuesday's massive fire is calling it quits.
“Oh, no, I'm retired from that,” Adam Jastrzebski said Wednesday.
Jastrzebski, 68, of London, Ont., spoke to QMI Agency in an exclusive interview from his bed at Kingston General Hospital about the harrowing 45 minutes he spent at the end of the 65-metre boom in freezing temperatures the fire raged below.
Jastrzebski suffered burns to his back, buttocks and right hand, and is on pain killers.
He said the fire started small but there was a lot of smoke, too thick for him to safely climb down.
“I was waiting outside (the cab)," he said. "It was a little fire but so much smoke so I thought to myself I couldn't go down because I could get choking and fall down and kill myself.”
With all the wood construction material feeding the flames, it soon became a raging inferno.
He was able to turn the crane east to face away from the flames and heavy smoke before shutting it down.
Jastrzebski has 46 years experience working on construction cranes, the first 20 years in his native Poland.
For the past five years he has been working for Canadian Professional Crane Inc. out of Hamilton, Ont., ,which supplies cranes and operators for union and non-union projects.
“In one second all around me flames and people started screaming, 'Go to the boom, go to the boom' and I went right away.”
He walked the length of the boom without a safety harness and then lay down at the very end, waiting for help to arrive.
“So I called 911 and they told me the helicopter is already en route and he said 30 minutes but they came faster than that,” he recalled. “I was shaking and frozen on one side, it was a crazy situation.
“After 20 minutes I heard the helicopter coming. The guy came to my place and put the harness on my chest and held it together, picked me up and put me in the helicopter, and then we came right to the hospital.”
He said he wasn't scared during the dramatic rescue because he's not afraid of heights.
“That's why I work in the tower crane,” he said.
While waiting for the rescue he said he tried to keep warm by lying on his knapsack and pulled his hoodie over his head.
He said he could hear people yelling encouragement at him from below.
“I was just waiting up there,” he said.
He said he didn't feel much before or during the rescue.
“At that time I was kind of shocked so there was not much feeling at all,” he said.
Jastrzebski thanked the firefighters and 8 Wing rescuers out of CFB Trenton, Ont., for saving him.
“I appreciate everyone caring about me so that is very kind,” he said.
Stranded crane operator rescued from massive Kingston fire 'retires' | Ontario | News | Toronto Sun
Retires. Can't say I blame him.