A man who uses a wheelchair was rescued Thursday by firefighters after he became trapped inside a building when a nearby sheared fire hydrant created a geyser that flooded the building and cause its roof to collapse.
The incident began about 4:29 a.m. in the 3100 block of San Fernando Road in Glassell Park, where a big rig clipped a hydrant while the driver was attempting to make a U-turn, said Sgt. Phil Tamez of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Water soared high into the air after the collision, and much of it landed on the roof of a nearby business, the sergeant said. The weight of the water caused the roof to partially collapse, sending a torrent into the single-story structure.
Firefighters responded to the scene and were working to shut off the water when a woman heard cries for help from inside the building, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Juan Medrano said he heard the screams and informed firefighters.
"He was just yelling in there, 'Help me, help me,'" Medrano said.
Inside the building, Chris Gregg thought he was going to die. The water was up to the level of his chest, and the noise was deafening.
"I thought I was going to drown," said Gregg, an amputee diabetic who uses a wheelchair. "They couldn't open the door."
LAFD personnel using a chainsaw to open a nailed-shut door, after which a stream of debris came pouring out of the doorway.
The firefighters entered the building and found the man inside, LAFD spokesman Erik Scott said. They then escorted the amputee to safety and recovered his prosthetic leg. He was uninjured.
"These guys are the greatest in the world," Gregg said. "They know what they're doing and they do it very well. Good job."
Gregg's pet cat was also rescued.
The water pressure left a horizontal crack in the building, at heating-supply business, which was yellow-tagged.