NYU student trapped in tight space rescued

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A New York University student from Baldwin Borough rescued after being trapped in a tiny space between a dorm and a parking garage this weekend was upgraded to fair condition Monday.

Rescue workers in New York broke through two cinder-block walls in the parking garage Sunday to reach Asher Vongtau, 19, who was wedged in the space, which is less than 2 feet wide, for possibly up to two days, a fire department spokesman said.

An NYU public safety sergeant discovered Mr. Vongtau, a 2012 graduate of Baldwin High School, when he checked in what university spokesman John Beckman called "an unlikely spot" between the 17-story residence hall and the garage and heard moaning.

How exactly Mr. Vongtau became trapped between a dorm and the garage is still unclear, New York City police said Monday. It took workers about 90 minutes to break the wall and free him.

Mr. Vongtau was conscious during the extrication and was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center in serious condition around 6:30 p.m. He suffered a fractured arm, broken ribs and dehydration, a city police department spokesman said.

The Vongtau family declined an interview request Monday, a hospital spokeswoman said, but his mother, Habiba Vongtau, told the New York Post Sunday: "It started out that he was missing, nobody knew where he was. And all of a sudden, they discovered he'd fallen between two buildings.

"I'm just completely stunned -- he's actually one of those responsible kids."

Mr. Vongtau's father was en route to New York from Nigeria and his mother was at the hospital with him Monday, the spokeswoman said.

Mr. Beckman lauded the New York fire and police departments, the friends who reported Mr. Vongtau missing and the officer who discovered him.

"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," he said in a statement.

The university's public safety department said it first learned Mr. Vongtau was missing at 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

A search included checking his room, local emergency rooms and precincts, contacting friends and checking the university locations where his student ID had recently been used for entry.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.

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