Trapped student rescued in Oakland

Stuck between buildings on Forbes

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An 18-year-old college student took a rooftop stroll through Oakland in the early hours of yesterday morning and became trapped for hours after he fell 20 feet into a gap between two buildings along Forbes Avenue.

Police and paramedics rescued Hasan Rawal of Upper St. Clair.

"I'm OK," Mr. Rawal said when reached last night. He declined to say whether police had charged him in connection with the incident and also declined to say how long he had been trapped in between the buildings in the 3000 block of Forbes.

City Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said police spoke with Mr. Rawal about the incident but declined details.

"We're looking to see if charges can be filed," he said.

An Oakland-wide search that included multiple police units and even a medical rescue helicopter began shortly after noon when Mr. Rawal called 911 from his cell phone.

He told operators he had been out the night before, had fallen into some sort of ditch, and shortly after that, his cell phone battery died.

With a helicopter fluttering overhead, officers fanned out across Oakland, said Cmdr. Stangrecki. Some searched wooded areas. Others cruised Forbes and began asking questions.

Employees at some businesses along and behind Forbes said they heard shouting, but one wasn't sure what to make of it.

"I just assumed it was out along Forbes," said Matt Pfaendler, who works the weekend shift at a parking lot behind Forbes. "We heard someone yelling and assumed it was a protester. It really didn't sound like he was yelling for help."

Turns out he was.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Tim Schwartz, a clerk at the Rite Aid drug store along Forbes, said he was in the men's room when he heard a voice through the outside wall.

"Some kid said 'I fell in a hole,' " Mr. Schwartz told his boss, Amanda Bodnar.

The pair went outside and "just had to sort of follow the screaming," said Miss Bodnar. They climbed a fire escape, peered into the gap and spotted a disheveled, cold, but surprisingly uninjured young man.

After his rescue, though, Mr. Rawal didn't volunteer much. Mr. Schwartz and Miss Bodnar said he never offered an explanation about why he was taking a walk atop their building.


Dennis B. Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.


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