Over the past couple of months, a number of adventurous souls across the country have learned the hard way that the stunts you see in spy movies don’t always work out in real life. More specifically: very few fully grown men can squeeze through a building’s ductwork and make it out unassisted — let alone undetected.
Earlier this month, firefighters in Tulsa, Oklahoma had to rescue a man who was stuck in the duct of a Golden Corral. The man was a member of the restaurant’s cleaning crew, and when the cleaners accidentally locked themselves out of the building, he took it upon himself to sneak back in through the air ducts.
Naturally, he was too big and got himself stuck for about 20 minutes before rescuers arrived to free him.
Meanwhile, 1,300 miles away in Manhattan, a resident of an apartment building decided to take an usual route back to his home and wound up lodged inside a neighbor’s wall.
Gjyste (Julie) Margilaj reported hearing a crash and went into her kitchen to investigate.
“I freaked…out for a couple of minutes, and then I went over to the kitchen and I heard someone panting and breathing like they were in obvious pain. They were freaking out,” she said. “I opened the kitchen vent so he could breathe.”
Rescue crews found the man trapped inside the wall of Margilaj’s first-floor apartment and had to tear open the wall to get him out.
According to the unidentified man, he had been hanging out on the roof with some friends and instead of heading down the stairs to return to his apartment on the fourth-floor, he chose to travel through the ductwork. He was stuck for 45 minutes.
And back in December, in Penfield, New York, Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies discovered a man stuck in the ductwork of a pizzeria.
“He was as far down as he could go without coming out on top of an oven,” said Penfield assistant fire chief, Earl Lubanski. “The ductwork got narrower as you get down closer to the kitchen.”
After being released from the hospital, Mission Impossible-wannabe Richard Graham was charged with third-degree burglary, second-degree criminal mischief, and possession of burglary tools. He also ended up causing over $2,000 in damages to the pizzeria.
Studies show that having a surveillance camera system with remote access can eliminate theft and losses up to 80%. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 67% of burglaries can be prevented simply by installing video surveillance. However, it is likely that even a video camera would not have stopped Graham from climbing into those vents.
It should go without saying that crawling through a building’s ductwork is never a good idea. After all, they are designed for air flow, not human travel. While rectangular duct may be a bit wider than spiral duct (experts say that up to three additional inches must be factored in for the connections and reinforcements needed at each joint), no duct is wide enough or safe enough for a person to maneuver through.