|HUMAN SPIRIT: Alcides Moreno, who survived a plummet at Solow Tower (left), walks in an Arizona fundraiser. Click to enlarge.|
He survived 47-floor plunge — and now walks for charity: He’s a walking miracle. Alcides Moreno, the Midtown window washer who survived a terrifying, 47-story plunge when his scaffolding broke on Dec. 7, 2007, has made a stunning recovery.
Moreno, now 43 and living with his family near Phoenix, drives his kids to school and volleyball matches, works out at a gym — and finished a 3.1-mile walk to raise funds for a church food pantry. His time: a respectable 57:26, or 18.30 minutes per mile. “I don’t know why I’m still here, still alive, walking,” he told The Post. “Maybe it’s a gift God gave me. My kids think it’s because I never wished bad things to nobody else.”
Moreno, who settled a multimillion-dollar suit against scaffolding company Tractel Inc., said he’s taking life after the catastrophe — which killed his brother, Edgar, 30 — one step at a time. “I can’t complain. I have my kids and my wife around me. I’m happy — happy to be here,” he said. “I gotta keep going, live day by day. That’s the way I’m healing.”
|Alcides Moreno “rode” the scaffold like a surfboard, an updraft slowing his fall. When the scaffold struck a fence, Alcides was thrown onto a pile of cables in an alley.|
Alcides defied death on a cold morning six years ago last month. Then age 37, he and Edgar, sent to wash the dark glass face of Solow Tower at 265 E. 66th St., had just stepped off the roof onto the scaffold when it collapsed. Edgar toppled off the 1,250-pound scaffold, tumbling at a speed estimated at up to 124 mph. He hit the top of a brick wall and was killed. But Alcides clung to the aluminum platform, like a surfboard in the sky. It created wind resistance that — aided perhaps by a random air current rising between the buildings — slowed his descent, physicists surmised. It also blunted the force of crashing into a concrete alley.
But doctors and scientists were still stumped. “Fifty percent of people who fall four to five stories die. By the time you reach 10 or 11 stories, just about everyone dies,” Dr. Sheldon Teperman, director of trauma and critical-care surgery at Jacobi Medical Center in The Bronx, said at the time. “This guy absolutely should have died.”
|The scaffold bounced on the ground and the twisted metal frame came to rest around a corner of the building.|
Firefighters and paramedics found a bloody, banged-up Alcides atop a pile of mangled railings and cables after his 500-foot fall. He was breathing. They gingerly lifted Alcides and took him to New York-Presbyterian, where he received 24 pints of blood and 19 pints of plasma. That’s enough to replace all the blood in his body twice over. He underwent 16 surgeries to repair 10 broken bones, collapsed lungs, damaged kidneys and blood clots in the brain, among other injuries.
On Christmas Day, 18 days later, he spoke for the first time since the accident. “What did I do?” he asked his wife, Rosario. Moreno’s next stop: Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, NJ, to begin a long, bumpy road to recovery. “I do think it’s a combination of miracle, luck, hard work, great care and great family,” Kessler’s medical director, Dr. Steven Kirshblum told The Post. “What we see is the true triumph of the human spirit.”
Moreno would undergo a regimen of physical therapy to strengthen his legs and regain balance; occupational therapy — for relearning tasks like grooming, hygiene and dressing; speech therapy and mental exercises to rebuild thinking skills and memory. He also underwent psychotherapy to cope with his brother’s death. “I felt really depressed for years about the loss of my brother. He was so huge to me,” Moreno said, his voice dropping. “But I have my family, my kids. I had to let it go and continue with my life.”
|KEEPING THE FAITH: Wife Rosario is in disbelief at the hospital days after the December 2007 window-washing horror.|
The Morenos have three children: Andrew, 12, Mariah, 14, and Michael, 20, who attends a local community college in Arizona. Moreno, too, plans to take a course to improve his English, saying he never had the chance to go to college. “I finished high school in Ecuador, and there was nothing else to do. That’s why I emigrated to this country — to look for a job.” Moreno can’t work again, at least not in the foreseeable future.
A Manhattan Supreme Court judge found Tractel at fault for shoddily installed cables suspending the scaffold from the roof of the high-rise. Solow Tower was also found liable. The case was settled before trial for an undisclosed sum. A source said it was much more than the $2.5 million awarded for Edgar’s family in Ecuador — the brother “died instantly, leaving a wife, mother and father who were only minimally dependent on him,” court records state.
The Morenos, who lived in Linden, NJ, chose to move to Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix, after a Google search, Moreno laughed, for a community with good schools — and a warm climate. “This weather is good for my bones. My bones feel great,” he said. “Yes, I miss New York — not the weather, though, the people,” he added.
In his new routine, Moreno said, he stretches his muscles at the gym and walks one or two miles a day. He said he still walks slow but conceded that the Turkey Day 5K in 2011, to benefit a Catholic food pantry, was a big accomplishment. When he joined the walk/run, coordinators and the 1,500 other participants had no idea Moreno was NYC’s miracle window washer. “It’s incredible,” said race director Casey Brown. “You can’t even tell anything happened to him.” “I keep it to myself,” Moreno said.
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