A woman who climbed up a construction crane in downtown Toronto and was later brought safely to the ground following a high-stakes rescue operation Wednesday morning has been arrested for mischief.
Fire officials said crews responded to a 911 call around 4 a.m. after someone spotted the woman on the crane near Wellesley Street and Church Street.
Images from the scene showed a woman believed to be in her mid-20s sitting atop of the crane’s hook block approximately 12 storeys up for several hours.
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A firefighter specializing in high-climb rescues was sent in to climb the crane boom and rappel down to the woman.
The rescuer, identified as acting Capt. Rob Wonfor, was able to reach the woman around 8 a.m. and a safety harness was placed on her before both of them could come down.
“We didn’t talk that much. We just stayed focused on the rescue so I just wanted to make sure she was safe,” Wonfor told reporters on Wednesday. “She talked to me to make sure I was safe. That’s all we really said to each other, ‘Let’s get out of this together and get the job done.'”
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said Wonfor displayed incredible strength and stamina for spending nearly three hours in the air.
“So he was up that crane, on various stages of the crane, being suspended on rope for about two and half hours from the time he started his climb to the time he was lowered to the ground,” Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said.
Fire officials said the decision was made not to move the crane and to have both the firefighter and the woman rappel down together.
“In conversation between the crane operator and the rescuer at the tip, there was some concerns around a series of moving parts and there would have been a lot of moving cables, pulleys and so forth,” Pegg said.
Both reached the ground just after 8:30 a.m., when the woman was then placed in handcuffs by police and arrested for mischief.
Police have identified the woman involved in the incident as 23-year-old Marisa Lazo. She was charged with six counts of public mischief interfering with property and is scheduled to appear in a Toronto court Thursday.
Lazo was taken to hospital as a precaution, and police did not provide details on how or why she is alleged to have climbed the crane.
Pegg said the rescue operation was very technical and involved a lot of collaboration from several crews.
“For every technical rescuer you see, there’s a whole cadre of rescuers behind the scenes running ropes and doing communications,” Pegg said.
“It’s an outstanding success. In fact, the little scrum we had with our firefighters as one of the senior captains walked away, he looked at me and said, ‘There isn’t a textbook on that, but we just wrote it,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”
The platoon chief said the rescue operation was risky due to the height and nature of the climb.
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“It’s very taxing and physical. Every time he goes up he has to hook on for safety,” Toronto Fire Platoon Chief Kevin Shaw said during the rescue operation.
A construction worker at a nearby job site told Global News it is incredibly difficult to end up on the crane’s hook.
“It’s challenging because you have to face the height factor,” Jimmy Roche said. “It’s easy to get up there. There’s ladders but to shimmy down the rope, it’s very challenging. Like, wow. I’m shocked. Just the fact she came down it, it’s surprising.”
Wonfor, who’s been a firefighter for 22 years, said he’s amazed how Lazo made the climb with seemingly no training.
“She has to tell me how she did it because she’s got to be our new training officer for high angle. It’s impressive,” Wonfor said. “It’s hard enough for me to go up with ropes and harnesses. She free-climbed that. It’s incredible.”