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A construction worker trapped on a balcony during a five-alarm fire in a Houston apartment complex on Tuesday was brought to safety by firefighters just before the building started to collapse.
The entire scene was captured on a cell phone video by Karen Jones, who was working across the street. The construction worker, whose name has not been released, is shown dangling dangerously from a balcony as he attempts to escape the flames engulfing a $50 million, 396-unit apartment complex in downtown Houston that was still under construction.
"It was very scary,'' Jones told TODAY Wednesday. "We were all near the windows. People were afraid. People were just wondering, 'Oh gosh, is this man going to make it? Are they going to get to him?'"
The worker waved for help before hanging off the side of the fifth-floor balcony, then jumped to the balcony one floor below in order to avoid the blaze. He slipped backward when he landed but was able to regain his balance.
"I was really just fearful that he wasn't going to make it off of that ledge,'' Jones said. "And when he jumped, and he slipped, we were just frantic."
Firefighters were able to get a ladder close to the balcony, leaving a gap of a few feet between the end of the ladder and the trapped worker. Firefighter Brad Hawthorne climbed to the edge and helped save the worker, who was able to leap to clear the gap.
"I said, 'All right, come on,''' Hawthorne told reporters afterward. "He had to make a leap. He kind of jumped and grabbed on. I said, 'Hang on!'''
Once the worker was safely on the ladder, large sections of the adjacent building wall began to collapse.
"As they finally got him onto the ladder and the building began to crumble, that was just — it was horrifying,'' Jones said.
No one was injured in the blaze, which involved 200 Houston firefighters, according to officials. The cause of the fire is under investigation.