NYU sophomore Asher Vongtau was trapped between a 17-story NYU dorm at 80 Lafayette Street and an adjacent parking garage for 35 hours until the FDNY broke through the wall at roughly 7 p.m. yesterday to extract him. According to reports, it was the dogged hunt by his friends that led to his rescue.
Vongtau first went missing on Saturday, according to ABC-7. It’s unclear how he managed to get stuck between the two buildings, though a theory has been floated that a false fire alarm might have caused Vongtau to fall out of a fifth story window. As to what they were doing before the fire drill, well, Vongtau’s friends demurred.
“I don’t want to elaborate on what we were doing in there,” said sophomore Michael Yablon to the New York Post.
Yablon, NIcholas Liem, and a third unnamed friend started looking for Vongtau after they couldn’t reach him. Eventually they contacted Vongtau’s mother, who contacted NYU Public Safety, according to NYU Local.
FDNY tweeted this image of the rescue operation.
— FDNY (@FDNY) November 4, 2013
Vongtau was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was listed in serious condition.
Various reports have stated that the university discouraged the students from filing a missing-persons report.
“We had to contact his mother ourselves and had her file a police report before they would take it seriously,” Vongtau’s friend Nicholas Liem told CBS New York.
The Village Voice reached out to NYU’s vice president of public affairs, John Beckman, about Liem’s claim. Beckman did not comment, instead issuing a statement that Vongtau’s rescue was due at least in part to a university employee discovering the student. The full statement is below.
NYU’s Dept of Public Safety first received word of a missing student — a male undergraduate — about 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning from students and immediately began a search, checking the student’s room, reaching out to friends, checking area emergency rooms, checking local precincts, and checking on the NYU locations where his ID had most recently been used for entry, among other efforts. Later on Sunday, possessions of his were found at our residence hall at 80 Lafayette St., and the Public Safety Dept’s efforts were focused there.
One of our Public Safety sergeants in the course of his search of the building extended his search to a narrow space between our building and an abutting garage, where he discovered someone wedged into the space and heard moaning. The FDNY and the NYPD were immediately called; they responded and rescued the student. Our understanding is that the student was conscious and able to communicate with rescuers throughout the rescue. The student was transported to the hospital.
The circumstances of how the student came to be in this space remain unclear to us. We are very glad to say the least that student was found safe and mostly sound and was rescued, pleased that his condition was such that he was able to remain conscious and alert during the rescue, grateful to the FDNY and NYPD for their quick response and excellent work, and proud of our Public Safety officer for looking in what would have been an unlikely spot for a student to be.