Man rescued after trying to jump rooftops in Oakland, falling between buildings

PITTSBURGH — It’s a rescue that played out live on Channel 11 Morning News: Emergency crews spent four hours working to free a man who was wedged between two buildings in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood early Tuesday.

Grant Birdsong remained hospitalized Tuesday evening in fair condition, recovering from a broken ankle after investigators say he fell three stories while trying to jump from one Forbes Avenue roof  to another -- to impress a girl.

Officials said Birdsong fell around 2 a.m. when he tried jumping from the roof of the Bruegger's Bagels up to the roof of the Qdoba Mexican Grill. A police spokeswoman said Birdsong was with a woman at the time of the accident and was trying to impress her.

Birdsong, who is a student at the University of Pittsburgh, fell into the space between the buildings, which is between 16 inches and 18 inches. At one point during the rescue, a rope was used to lower a paramedic between the buildings to check on Birdsong, whose body was going numb.

“We were concerned because he said his foot was trapped under a pipe, but once the medic got down there we were able to release the foot,” Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said.

Rescuers were forced to destroy the wall inside Qdoba to reach Birdsong. A harness was used to pull Birdsong, who was in a somewhat seated position, through the hole crews created and onto a stretcher. He was wheeled out on a gurney around 6 a.m. and was alert, even waving to a Channel 11 News camera.

“It is amazing. Fortunately, he didn't land on his head. Otherwise, it would have been more serious and more urgent circumstance to get him out,”Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said.

Qdoba franchise owner Chad Brooks learned about the rescue around 6 a.m. and soon came to see the damage to his building in-person.

“We’ve been in Oakland 14 years and just when you think you’ve seen everything, this happens,” Brooks said.

When he arrived at his business, Brooks said it was so much worse than what I thought it was going to be.

"The wall was caving in. It’s not like we can cover it up and open. This thing has to be torn down and replaced,” he said.

Brooks said with Pitt students returning to campus, now is the time of year when business picks up. Instead, he expects Qdoba to be closed for at least a week while crews replace the wall.

“Students moved in yesterday and today, and here we get shut down. It’s sort of making or break time and this is a hard one, but we will push through,” Brooks said.

He said Birdsong called the store Tuesday to apologize for the incident and for hurting his business.

“I have no expectation or animosity toward this kid. We were all young and stupid at one point. He was just being dumb and that’s what happens,” Brooks said.

The incident also affected traffic, as Forbes Avenue was closed between Oakland Avenue and Atwood Street during the rescue.

Bruegger's Bagels opened later than usual because of the incident, prompting the restaurant to put the following message to guests in its window:

"Today, August 23rd, we will not be opening til 7 a.m. due the man who thought it would be a good idea to jump our rooftop to impress his girlfriend and got stuck between the building walls!"