SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — A window washer remains in critical but stable condition after falling from the roof of an 11-story building onto a moving car at California and Montgomery in San Francisco Friday morning. The man whose car broke the victim's fall says he is praying for him to survive.
The accident happened at 10:03 a.m. at the Sterling Bank & Trust building according to police.
The window washer and a co-worker were adjusting their cables from the roof while their working platform lay on the ground. Something went awry and the man ended up falling 11 stories onto the car, completely caving in the back part of the Toyota Camry's roof.
The driver of the car, Mohammad Alcozai said he heard something very loud, felt a hard impact and stopped. He thought he had hit a biker. When he got out, he saw the victim on the ground, shaking, completely disoriented, but very much alive.
"It was scary for me, but thank God he is alive. I will pray for him. Hopefully he will make it," said Alcozai.
The accident victim was rushed to San Francisco General Hospital with critical injuries, but Alcozai managed to escape without injury.
According to police, the victim was conscious when he was transported and probably suffered a fractured arm, among other injuries.
Sam Hartwell, an eyewitness, said he was crossing the intersection when the accident happened.
"I was actually looking in the direction of where the fellow fell off the building and I saw something blue out of the corner of my eye falling and then I heard the loud thud and the shattering of the back of the car."
Once he realized it was a falling body, he said about 20 people rushed around the man, at which point calls were made out to 911. Citizens then started to direct traffic.
"Everyone did the right thing, we didn't disrupt the integrity of the spinal cord. We covered him with clothing. He was obviously in shock," Hartwell said.
Hartwell went on to describe the victim's condition in great detail and said he was frothing at the mouth while he appeared to be lucid in one eye. Blood could be seen coming from his ears, he said.
"He understood what was going on. We spoke to him in reassuring terms. I hope he's going to be okay."
It is very unlikely the victim would have survived the fall if he hadn't landed on top of the car, staff scientist Paul Doherty at San Francisco's Exploratorium, explained. "The roof of the car caved in and softened the blow, allowed him to stop falling, especially if he hit it flat. It spread out the impact of the force.
Doherty likened it to cases in which skydiver's parachute fails, but they survive the fall because they landed in a pile of fluffy snow, or a prize fighter who recoils from a punch, lessening the impact of the blow.
"That's the key thing that saved him," said Doherty.
Alcozai said he was circling the block looking for a place to park when the victim fell on his car.
"I think today I was in the right spot at the right time," said Alcozai in an interview Friday afternoon. "If my car wasn't there, he would have hit concrete and he wouldn't be alive."
Alcozai said his insurance company told him the damage to his car wasn't covered by his policy. His concern is for the victim, though.
"I'm sure he has a family. That's all I'm thinking about, I hope he can make it."
The window washer worked for Century Window Cleaning. Cal-Osha investigators were on the scene to interview witnesses. They are also to see if the company has ever been cited for violations.
Sgt. Danielle Newman with the San Francisco Police Department said that pedestrians below in the busy Financial District were very lucky to have escaped injury and that the window washer was lucky to have fallen on the car because it broke his fall.
Window Washer Survives 11-Story Fall In San Francisco's Financial District, Passing Car Cushions Fall
California Street was shut down for several hours between Montgomery and Sansome while police investigated. Cable-car service on the California line was also shut down, with shuttles sent out to provide service in the interim.
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