A public relations event at an Arizona fire station went awry Wednesday night when a ladder suddenly retracted, leaving four civilians and a firefighter hurt.
Officials told a reporter for The Green Valley News that the ladder "suddenly and rapidly" retracted about 40 feet.
The victims, who were in a bucket, suffered fractures and bruises to heels, legs and an arm, and were transported to University Medical Center-Main Campus in Tucson. Two of the three that remained hospitalized Thursday, underwent surgery, the paper reported.
One civilian and the firefighter were released on Thursday. morning.
The 100-foot ladder was nearly fully extended at a 45-degree angle and apparently was in the process of being extended the last few feet when the top section slid back about 40 feet, a spokesman for the Green Valley Fire District explained to reporters.
He likened the accident to an elevator failing and sliding rapidly down a shaft.
The steel cable controlling the third section of the ladder snapped but said it was not clear whether it snapped before the top section of the ladder slid back or whether it snapped as a result of the ladder failure.
All five were wearing safety equipment that prevented them from being thrown to the ground. The bucket has a leveling device that keeps it from swaying excessively, firefighters explained.
Firefighters decided to leave the stranded bucket alone -- 42 feet up -- and call for help from another fire department.
A crew from the Pascua Pueblo Fire Department used its ladder to rescue the injured people, who were placed in their bucket to be brought to the ground.
The paper reported that one of the victims, Tom Brown, had purchased a dinner with firefighters as part of a fundraiser sponsored the Valle Verde Rotary Club and invited his wife, Judy, and club president Gary Friedman and his wife, Timber. A ride in the bucket of the ladder truck was part of the prize.
“I bought a dinner with the firefighters at a Rotary jazz festival fundraiser and I was teasing them about when they were going to make it (dinner) for me,” Brown told reporters Thursday. “These are such wonderful people and I’m just glad that we were blessed to be with them when this happened and that they were not out on a real emergency.”
The cause of the failure is under investigation.