Window Washer Survives After Falling Almost 500 Feet

Doctors say Alcides Moreno will make a full recovery after falling 43 stories.

ByABC News via logo
January 4, 2008, 10:24 AM

Jan. 4, 2008 — -- Doctors are having a hard time explaining why Alcides Moreno is still alive.

On Dec. 7, Moreno, a window washer, fell 43 stories from the side of New York skyscraper after his scaffolding collapsed. After 18 days in a coma and nine surgeries, doctors actually believe Moreno will walk again.

On Christmas Day Moreno first woke. Though it baffles doctors, he has now regained movement in all of his limbs and is able to talk.

"The scaffold fell all the way from the top. It sounded almost like a building coming down," a witness said.

Moreno keeps telling his wife, Rosario, that it just wasn't his time.

"If you believe in miracles, this would be one," said Philip Barie, chief of surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital where Moreno was treated.

Both of his legs were broken. He had severe injuries to his chest, abdomen and spinal column, and bleeding in his brain.

"Evolution didn't give us a body that could survive a drop from that distance but with a combination of luck and physics you can in fact survive one of these falls," said Michio Kaku, professor of physics at City University of New York.

Moreno was working with his brother washing windows, as they had done for the last 12 years, when their scaffold collapsed. His brother was thrown and died instantly. Moreno luckily managed to hold on.

Window washers are taught to lie down on their scaffold in emergencies like this, as happened in a similar fall in Denver two years ago.

"The plank will help to absorb and spread out some of the impact," said Kaku.

Moreno fell so far that the force of gravity maxed out and air friction even played a slight role in softening the blow. "At a certain point you just don't go any faster. You hit terminal velocity." Kaku explained.

In other words, hitting the ground from 10,000 feet is nearly the same as hitting it from 500.

Sky diver Shayna West survived when her chute failed to open in March. "She crashed into the ground and I thought for sure I was running up on a corpse," recalled her husband.