Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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September 26, 2012

Would-be burglar pulled from restaurant exhaust duct

Had been trapped for about nine hours

ASHLAND — An apparent would-be burglar became trapped in the exhaust duct of an Ashland restaurant early Wednesday morning and was extracted from it some 9 1/2 hours later by city firefighters.

Employees of El Rancho Grande, 2416 Winchester Ave., heard the suspect yelling for help when they arrived to open the restaurant. It took about two hours to remove the grease-covered male from the ductwork, Ashland Fire Department Battalion Chief Bob McKeon said.

The suspect's name wasn't immediately available. Rescue workers at the scene said he was a juvenile, in which case it would be unlikely his identity would be made public. It also was not immediately known what, if any, charges had been filed against him.

The suspect was pulled out of the ductwork about 11:30 a.m. McKeon said it was his understanding he'd been there since about 2 a.m.

The suspect climbed onto the roof of the building and crawled into the duct there. He was able to squeeze downward through it, but, when he reached the bottom, he found the vent joined with another section of ductwork, forming a "T," and that the hole at the bottom wasn't large enough for him to wiggle through, McKeon said.

When firefighters arrived, the suspect's body was upright in the vertical section of duct, while his feet and legs were horizontal in one of the lower sections. The suspect was respectful and cooperated fully with his rescuers and thanked them after he was freed, McKeon said.

Firefighters on the roof lowered a harness to the suspect and instructed him him how to put it on. However, the initial attempts to pull him up failed because the suspect was so slippery, from all the grease in the duct, that he was unable to get a hold to free himself, McKeon said.

The problem finally was resolved when firefighters moved an oven and pushed the suspect from beneath while those on the roof pulled the harness upward.

Firefighters pulled the suspect up to the roof, placed him on a stretcher and carried him down the ladder of an aerial truck. He was then placed in a waiting ambulance and taken to King's Daughters Medical Center.

The extent of the suspect’s injuries wasn't clear, but Boyd County EMS Director Tom Adams said he had abrasions to lower legs and could a face of range of medical problems stemming from him being in one position for so long.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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