Meet the firefighter who rescued a woman stuck on a crane in downtown Toronto
Rob Wonfor fought fatigue, kept a sunny attitude while pulling off a daring high-angle rescue
The young woman rescued from a crane pulley towering into the sky on Wednesday morning owes her life to veteran firefighter Rob Wonfor.
Wonfor, 52, has 22 years of firefighting experience. He made the slow climb up the inside of the crane beginning at about 6 a.m ET before reaching the woman and strapping her into a harness.
By 8:30 a.m., Wonfor and the woman had been safely lowered to the ground. After being checked out by paramedics, he spoke to the media about the rescue.
Q: How did she get up there?
Wonfor: She has to tell me how she did it because she's going to be our new training officer for high-angle rescues, because it's impressive. It was hard enough for me to go up, and she free climbed that. It's incredible.
Q: Take us through what happened.
Wonfor: After we spotted her with binoculars, it was dark, so we had a tough time spotting her, but we realized we did have someone up there. We had heavy squads here and good trained crews, and the captains took the lead and decided what we were going to do. The chief decided we were going to go get her. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to move the crane properly and get it down, so we said, 'OK, we'll execute a rescue, away we go.'
Q: How hard was it to climb up the crane with all your gear?
Wonfor: It got heavy but you know, you're focused on your job. There was nobody else coming besides us, so you just have to get it done.
Firefighter has successfully lowered down and made contact with woman. <a href="https://t.co/guw9sqxS5c">pic.twitter.com/guw9sqxS5c</a>—@LaurenPelley
Q: What did you say when you got up there?
Wonfor: We just talked, said my name, told her to stay calm, she said, 'Yeah, great, glad to see you up here to help me.'
Q: Was she frightened?
Wonfor: She was very calm, so she made me calm actually.
Q: Did you get her name?
Wonfor: We didn't even get into that about names. We just wanted to focus on getting her down from that location. I told her, 'I gotta stay focused on my job, I don't want to get distracted, talking, so let's get our ropes hooked up and get down there.
Q: You had to change the game plan for the rescue when you were up there. What happened?
Wonfor: We weren't sure what was going to happen. We had to use the crane operator's experience and decide whether it was a good way to bring her down. He suggested not to move the pulleys or cables, so we took her down with our ropes because we know it, we trust it, we know what we can do and it was a guarantee for us.
Q: How did it end up being you sent up there?
Wonfor: I was voluntold [volunteered and told] you're going up. I've been on for 22 years, so I do a lot of rope work with trees, and I'm a bit of a monkey, so they thought, 'You're the guy.'
Q: How is this different from scaling a tree?
Wonfor: You know, I've got a tree job to do tomorrow, and it's not going to be nearly as high as that, so it's going to be like climbing a bush. But you've got your equipment and your training, so the job provides us very good training.
The last leg of the rescue: <a href="https://t.co/WwqhnFetHT">pic.twitter.com/WwqhnFetHT</a>—@LaurenPelley
Q: How are you feeling now?
Wonfor: Very tired. It's a lot of work trying to get up there, dragging ropes up there. I'm fatigued right now for sure. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't.
Q: What was the first thing you thought when you arrived on the scene?
Wonfor: How did she get there? How did she do it? That's what everyone wants to know.
Q: Did she tell you why?
Wonfor: We didn't get into discussing that. You don't want to get into the whos, whys or whens, it was just, 'Let's get out of this together.'
Q: What role did the negotiator who was up there with you play?
Wonfor: Oh he was good, very good, the calm voice, he was like a late-night talk show host. He kept it really calm, kept it really calm. He had that Perry Como type of voice. He calmed me down
Q: Were you laughing up there?
Wonfor: Yeah we were having a good time up there. You've got to keep it light. If you're not laughing, you're crying.
Q: What was the hardest part?
Wonfor: Getting up there.
Q: Are you hoping for the rest of the day off?
Wonfor: I do. We've got a hockey tournament. We've got a game at 11 so I don't want to be late ... I play goal - I try to play goal. I'm getting a bit older. But if the Leafs want me.