Window washers 'doing well' after scaffold mishap

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Dangling WTC Window Cleaners Rescued

NEW YORK (AP) -- Investigators are looking into the collapse of a World Trade Center scaffold that left two window washers dangling from the nation's tallest skyscraper - 1 World Trade Center, which opened earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the workers were trapped 68 stories above the street when a cable suddenly developed slack.

The men held on to the teetering platform for two agonizing hours before firefighters used diamond cutters to saw through a double-layered window to pull them to safety.

The dramatic rescue, coming a little more than a week after the nation's tallest building officially opened, was followed by throngs of New Yorkers on the ground and many more around the world watching on live TV.

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Window washers 'doing well' after scaffold mishap
A firefighter looks out an opening cut into the glass of the window on the 60th floor of 1 World Trade Center after rescuing two workers from their collapsed scaffolding in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The two window washers were trapped for more than an hour. The dramatic rescue occurred on the south side of the 1,776-foot, 104-story building, where the open-topped platform hung at about a 45-degree angle and swayed slightly in the wind. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: In this handout provided by the FDNY, a scaffold that was carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by FDNY via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold that was carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Workers weld at the World Trade Center construction site while a scaffold still hangs from the side of One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: People look up at a scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A woman looks out from a car at a dangling scaffold at the 1 World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after 1 World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: In this handout provided by the FDNY, a scaffold that was carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by FDNY via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold that was carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
MAN ALL HANDS 1 WORLD TRADE CENTER, HIGH RISE (WORLD TRADE CENTER) SCAFFOLDING EMERGENCY, UNDER CONTROL
A partially collapsed scaffolding hangs from the One World Trade Center in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. New York City firefighters have been called to the nation's tallest skyscraper, where two workers are stuck on scaffolding 69 stories above street level. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
This photo, from the Fire Dept. of New York Twitter page, shows a window washer's gondola as it hangs from 1 World Trade Center, in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. Two workers are stuck on scaffolding 69 stories above street level. A police official, John Miller, says the partially collapsed scaffolding is hanging at "a 75-degree angle." The Fire Department said the workers are tethered and communicating with rescuers. (AP Photo/Fire Dept. of New York, Twitter)
A partially collapsed scaffolding hangs from the 1 World Trade Center in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. New York City firefighters have been called to the nation's tallest skyscraper, where two workers are stuck on scaffolding 69 stories above street level. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Heavy fog blankets lower Manhattan in New York, including One World Trade Center, center, in this view across the Hudson River from Hoboken, N.J., Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The National Weather Service said the fog reduced visibility to a quarter mile or less. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Image captured by New York station WCBS shows workers trapped on a scaffold dangling off the side of 1 World Trade Center on Wednesday, November 12, 2014.
Image captured by New York station WCBS shows workers trapped on a scaffold dangling off the side of One World Trade Center
Image captured by New York station WCBS shows workers trapped on a scaffold dangling off the side of One World Trade Center
Image captured by New York station WCBS shows workers trapped on a scaffold dangling off the side of One World Trade Center
Onlookers take cell phone pictures of stranded window washers hanging from scaffolding on the side of One World Trade Center November 12, 2014 in New York. Two window washers were rescued at the new World Trade Center Wednesday after the cable secured to their platform snapped and left them dangling 69 floors up for nearly two hours. Rescuers cut a window to reach the workers who clung to a platform suspended at a precarious angle at the south side of the building, a frightening 787 feet (240 meters) above ground at Tower 1 of the complex in lower Manhattan. Some 100 firefighters were involved in the complex rescue operation at the building, which at more than 1,770 feet is the tallest in the United States. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Stranded window washers hang from scaffolding on the side of One World Trade Center in New York November 12, 2014. The pair were rescued at the new World Trade Center Wednesday after the cable secured to their platform snapped and left them dangling 69 floors above ground for nearly two hours. Rescuers cut a window to reach the workers who clung to a platform suspended at a precarious angle a frightening 787 feet (240 meters) above ground at Tower 1 of the complex in lower Manhattan. AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: People look up at a scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: People take photos of a scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Rescue teams break a window of 68th floor of One World Trade Center to rescue two window washers trapped on scaffolding after their platform malfunctioned on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 in NY. The 104-story supertall structure shares a name with the northern Twin Tower in the original World Trade Center that was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Construction workers look up at a scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: People look up at a scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: People are cleared from the Ground Zero Memorial due to a dangling scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Construction workers look up at scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after 1 World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Two window washers are trapped on scaffolding near the 68th floor of One World Trade Center, after their platform malfunctioned on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 in NY. The 104-story supertall structure shares a name with the northern Twin Tower in the original World Trade Center that was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Construction workers look up at scaffold carrying two workers hanging 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after 1 World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
#BREAKING window washers dangling from the 50th floor of new World Trade Center twr in NYC. http://t.co/7OOsKHWNck
WTC window washers emergency http://t.co/Yf7mzVUQSw
U/D Manhattan: Box 8084 at 1 World Trade Center Possible ESU reporting 2Window Washer stuck on scaffolding at 60floor http://t.co/G8UKKRptUW
Scary stuff #wtc1 http://t.co/AYMMfsI5Nw
NEW YORK: BREAKING - 2 workers said to be stuck on a dangling scaffold on the 50th floor of 1 WTC in NYC. PHOTOS - http://t.co/V4BLYY9g6z
WTC window washers are reportedly on this scaffold, which is tilted right now. Holy crap. http://t.co/5n6kw0UPW1
Live now in NY .. http://t.co/jiIxqHBr7G
Heavy fog blankets lower Manhattan in New York, including One World Trade Center, center, in this view across the Hudson River from Hoboken, N.J., Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. The National Weather Service said the fog reduced visibility to a quarter mile or less. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
One World Trade Center stands between the transportation hub, left, still under construction, and 7 World Trade Center, right, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014 in New York. Thirteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the resurrected World Trade Center is again opening for business, marking an emotional milestone for both New Yorkers and the United States as a whole. Publishing giant Conde Nast will start moving Monday into One World Trade Center, a 104-story, $3.9 billion skyscraper that dominates the Manhattan skyline. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
One World Trade Center, center, stands between the transportation hub, left, still under construction, and 7 World Trade Center, second from right, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014 in New York. Thirteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the resurrected World Trade Center is again opening for business, marking an emotional milestone for both New Yorkers and the United States as a whole. Publishing giant Conde Nast will start moving Monday into One World Trade Center, a 104-story, $3.9 billion skyscraper that dominates the Manhattan skyline. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
One Word Trade Center as seen from the 9/11 Memorial grounds, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, in New York. k. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision/AP Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold that was carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Buildings are reflected on the side of One World Trade Center as a scaffold was still dangling from the opposite side on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: Workers weld at the World Trade Center construction site while a scaffold still hangs from the side of One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A person walks by the World Trade Center construction site as a scaffold was still dangling from the side of One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: People walk by One World Trade Center as a scaffold was still hanging from the side on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A cab driver takes a picture from his cab of a dangling scaffold at the 1 World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after 1 World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A scaffold carrying two workers hangs 69 floors up at One World Trade Center on November 12, 2014 in New York City. The workers were washing windows 69 floors up soon after One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, opened. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Tourist Dawn Galley, from Manchester, England, snaps a photograph of 1 World Trade Center where a scaffolding still dangled hours after two window washers were rescued by firefighters who sawed through a window to reach them, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in New York. The accident, which officials said was caused by a malfunctioning cable, happened little more than a week after workers began moving into the nation's tallest building. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
A man uses binoculars to view a dangling scaffold containing two window washers who were stranded outside 1 World Trade in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Peggy Stewart, left, joins friends Eve and Cos Contento as they gaze up at 1 World Trade Center where a scaffolding still dangled hours after two window washers were rescued by firefighters who sawed through a window to reach them, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Tomas Vruns, from Muenster, Germany, uses his cell phone to take a picture of 1 World Trade Center where a scaffolding still dangled hours after two window washers were rescued by firefighters who sawed through a window to reach them, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in New York. The accident, which officials said was caused by a malfunctioning cable, happened little more than a week after workers began moving into the nation's tallest building. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Vegah and Pegah Habibbi of Shiraz, Iran, look up at 1 World Trade Center where a scaffolding still dangled hours after two window washers were rescued by firefighters who sawed through a window to reach them, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in New York. The accident, which officials said was caused by a malfunctioning cable, happened little more than a week after workers began moving into the nation's tallest building. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Doreen Isvister, left, and Pauline Latimer of Newcastle, England, compare photographs they snapped of a scaffolding dangling precariously on the side of 1 World Trade Center hours after two window washers were rescued by firefighters who cut through a window to reach them, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
The Tribute in Light rises behind the Brooklyn Bridge and buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center complex, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014 in New York. The tribute, an art installation of 88 searchlights aiming skyward in two columns, is a remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
CORRECTS LOCATION OF THE LIGHT TO ADJACENT TO THE WTC COMPLEX, NOT 1 WTC - The Tribute in Light rises behind buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center complex and a reflecting pool at the National September 11 Memorial, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, in New York. The tribute, an art installation of 88 searchlights aiming skyward in two columns, is a remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
In this Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014 photo, 1 World Trade Center towers above the lower Manhattan skyline in New York. Thirteen years after 9/11 forever changed the New York skyline, officials say developments at the World Trade Center are on track and on budget. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Sailboats pass below the 1 World Trade Center, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, in New York. Next month will mark the 13th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Brant geese swim in New York Harbor beneath the lower Manhattan skyline, May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
Window washers descend the 36-story Centennial Tower downtown skyscraper, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Window washers descend the 36-story Centennial Tower downtown skyscraper, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
One of two window washers stranded on the side of a building when the scaffolding he was working on snapped steps through an opening in a glass to the safety of the skyscraper he was working on in New York, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
CORRECTS DESCRIPTION OF WORKERS TO MAINTENANCE WORKERS INSTEAD OF WINDOW WASHERS - People look to the top of the 600-foot high Hearst skyscraper as two maintenance workers whose scaffolding collapsed are rescued by firefighters during the afternoon in midtown Manhattan in New York, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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The window washers, Juan Lizama and Juan Lopez, were working on the lower Manhattan building's south side when one of the platform's four cables abruptly gave way, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. The open-topped platform tilted sharply and swayed slightly between the 68th and 69th floors, he said.

"It suddenly went from horizontal to nearly vertical," Nigro said.

Officials haven't determined what caused the cable problem, the fire commissioner said.

It was unclear whether anything about the design of the 1,776-foot, 104-story skyscraper complicates working on the window washing scaffolds, which went into service in June.

A fire department photo shot from inside the building shows the scaffold platform hanging precipitously, with the Statue of Liberty appearing tiny in the distance.

About 100 firefighters rushed to the scene, some of them lowering ropes from the roof so the workers could secure themselves and providing a two-way radio to communicate, Nigro said. The workers, who have more than 20 years of experience between them, were harnessed to the platform, and the building's owner said they had all the requisite safety gear and training.

After shattering the window glass, firefighters began inching another scaffold down the building as a backup rescue plan. But the workers were brought to safety through the roughly 4-by-8-foot window hole.

"It was a fairly straightforward operation," said Battalion Chief Joseph Jardin, who oversees the fire department's special operations.

Officials stressed that firefighters had trained for various emergencies at the tower, which is the centerpiece of the rebuilt World Trade Center.

Firefighters generally seek to cut out windows to make such rescues, but Nigro noted the trade center's thick glass: a double-paned inner layer and an outer pane.

"And, of course, they were 68 stories up," he said. "That presented a little bit more of a challenge."

Lizama and Lopez were checked out at a hospital and were released. Their union, Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, said it makes sure workers follow rigorous safety protocols.

The building's owner, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said it was suspending window cleaning there while investigating what happened.

The window washers were working for Upgrade Services Window Cleaning, which services other prominent New York skyscrapers including the nearby 4 World Trade Center.

The window washing company would only say the window washers were "doing well" after their release from the hospital. The rig's supplier, the Tractel Group, which built and repaired scaffolds involved in two other high-profile accidents in recent years, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The Tractel Group was fined $21,000 in 2008 after a scaffold it had repaired the year before gave way with two window washers aboard while they worked on the 47th floor of an upper Manhattan building; one worker died. Tractel also built a scaffold that snapped 500 feet above the ground last June in midtown Manhattan, leaving two workers dangling; they were rescued after firefighters cut through glass.

The silvery $3.9 billion skyscraper that rose from the ashes of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack, opened last week to 175 employees of magazine publisher Conde Nast. Steps away are two memorial fountains built on the footprints of the decimated twin towers, a reminder of the more than 2,700 people who died in the attack.

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