Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 12:39 UK

US cleaner beats six-floor tumble

Window cleaners [file pic]
Alex Clay says he realised he had no choice but to let go

An American window cleaner who fell from the outside of a building six floors up has survived the "surreal" tumble with minor injuries.

Alex Clay, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, told the BBC he was forced to hold on with bare hands after colleagues had trouble connecting his harness.

But as they tried to repair the line Mr Clay said he became overcome with tiredness and was forced to let go.

A safety line failed, but his fall was broken before he hit the pavement.

An overhanging roof on the first floor broke his fall, and he hit the cement roof before he bounced onto the pavement.

Mother's concern

"It doesn't make much sense, but it was very slow - it was very very dream like," Mr Clay told the BBC World Service.

"It all just felt very surreal. It was very, very dream-like."


The problem started when Mr Clay noticed his harness was not properly connected to the cleaning rig.

His partner and another window cleaner tried to reconnect the harness correctly, but while they were doing it Mr Clay, who was holding on with his bare hands, said he started to slip.

"I was so tired, I started slipping and my hands were sweaty and my arms were sweaty," he explained.

"[My co-workers] tried to pull me up but I knew that they weren't going to be able to, I just knew so I had to make a really hard decision, I just had to drop and see what happened with the safety line that was connected to my back."

And drop he did.

Mr Clay said he had expected his safety line to engage shortly afterwards, but nothing happened.

It was only then that he began to fear for his life.

"I started thinking about my family and my friends, and just thought to myself: well, is this going to be the end? And if it's not, what kind of state am I going to be in for the rest of my life?"

Almost unbelievably, Mr Clay's only injuries are a shattered bone in his left foot and a cut on his leg.

The 21-year-old window cleaner had only been in the job for four months before the accident.

But despite his relative health, his prospects for a swift return to window cleaning appear bleak, he says: his mother is unlikely to let him go back to his high flying job.

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