It was Tim Riser's second day on the job as a building cleaner for the Excolene Service Co., and he and partner Frank Holl Jr. were motoring their 22-foot aluminum scaffold up the north side of an eight-story building at 20th and L streets NW.
Suddenly, just feet from the top a steel cable broke. Riser fell three stories before his safety harness took hold. Holl dangled above him, helpless.
"They tell me I bounced off the building a few times, but I didn't feel much," said Riser, a 25-year-old District Heights resident. "The rope burns had torn me up so, that was all I could think about. I wasn't worried about falling. I knew they'd come get me down eventually."
Moments later, several hundred lunchbound gawkers gathered on the sidewalk around the concrete and glass office building, and fire trucks wailed onto the scene, blocking traffic in two of three lanes on 20th Street.
Firemen went to rescue Riser first, raising a ladder 40 feet to where he had pulled himself up onto a window ledge. About 20 minutes after his fall, he was carried down to a waiting ambulance, and taken to George Washinton University Hospital. He was treated for rope burns on his hands, left arm, chest and back and released a short time later.
Holl, a 23-year old Forestville resident with a coloful Daffy Duck tattoo on his left arm, was treated for minor rope burns by firemen at the scene.
It was the first such accident for Excolene in the company's 10-year history, a spokesman for the firm said.
Riser said he and Holl were putting sealant on the concrete walls of the building when the mishap occurred.
"I'll be going back up," Riser, a former baker and landscaper, said after being treated at the hospital. "The money's [about $10 an hour] too good not to. You have your accidents but you're basically safe up there."