A man suspected of trying to break into a Chinese restaurant in San Lorenzo, California ended up stuck in its grease vent for two days.
The man, standing 5 feet and 9 inches (175.26 centimeters), stripped off his jacket and slid down the vent, which immobilized him into a semi-crouched position with arms reaching up.
#DEVELOPING “Had he not been found today, we could be having a whole different conversation.” First responder says it was no joke for the man stuck in a restaurant grease vent. One more day, and he might not have made it. Instead he was rescued…with cuts and bruises. #ABC7now pic.twitter.com/bMNfdAcitc
— Laura Anthony (@LauraAnthony7) December 12, 2018
To make matters worse, the man’s cries for help were muffled in the layers of oil that surrounded him.
His ordeal finally came to an end when Igor Campos, who owns a neighboring business, heard “a faint voice calling for help.”
“I keep hearing this ‘uh, uh’ and I’m like, ‘Who can it be?’” Campos told ABC7 News.
Curious, Campos set out to find the source of the noise — and found the man stuck in the restaurant’s exhaust vent.
“I kept asking questions like, ‘What’s your name?’” Campos recalled. “And he said ‘Just please help me… please don’t hurt me.’ I said, ‘I’m not trying to hurt you, I’m trying to help you.’”
Rescuing the man was not a convenient task. Sgt. Ray Kelly, a public information officer for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, said that the vent’s grease and sharp edges made it difficult to extract him.
“The fire department had to figure out a plan of attack to get him out. We couldn’t reverse course and pull him back up because the chute had sharp edges that would have cut him. Plus he was covered head to toe in grease — it was like he had been dipped in oil — and we didn’t want to yank him up and have him slide back down,” Kelly told NPR.
He also told the Washington Post, “I describe it like a boa constrictor’s teeth: They only go one way. To bring him back through the shaft would have cut him up. … He was also so slippery that he could have fallen back down into the chute and we would have been in the same boat.”
The man’s intention of coming to the restaurant — which had been abandoned for months — remains unclear. However, Kelly told NPR that it might have something to do with stealing.
“We know sometimes suspects try to break into businesses to steal copper wire and plumbing and recycling for money. This appears to be something along those lines, but not every solution is jail.”
The man will not face any charges at present, but he may “at a later time.”
“We decided to be a little compassionate. We figured he’s been through enough and it is in the holiday spirit,” Kelly added.