Last night, the FDNY rescued a 19-year-old NYU sophomore who had been wedged in a two-foot space between a downtown Manhattan dormitory and another building for 36 hours. The student, Asher Vongtau, was found trapped on his right side; Fire Chief Joseph Schiralli said, "He was conscious, he was moving, he was definitely tired."
Vongtau went missing on Saturday—he was last seen at 7 a.m. and his friends became worried when he didn't respond to text messages. According to WCBS 2, "Friends said that they reported him missing on Saturday morning after a false fire alarm. He was discovered when somebody looked at a security tape that showed him in the stairwell at 80 Lafayette Street." One friend, Colin Chenel, said, "I saw him frantically running up the stairs while people were exiting the building because the fire alarm had been pulled."
Another friend, Michael Yablon, said, "Had we not told the security guards, the three of us 19-year-old students, to check the roof they would not have found him for who knows how long and he would probably be dead right now." Apparently the guard heard Vongtau's moaning, but only after the friends urged them to look. NYU Local reports that the friends had been worrying since Saturday afternoon, and contact NYU Public Safety at 12:30 a.m. on Sunday:
The Public Safety officials told the trio that a person could not be considered missing until 72 hours had passed, but that they would check to see if Vongtau had swiped in at any buildings or been reported at any precincts or hospitals. Public Safety officers found no reports of either...Yablon says he asked NYU Public Safety officials on Sunday morning to search security footage of the Lafayette building for any sight of Vongtau. Public Safety officals told Yablon that the footage was kept at a location only open Monday through Friday, and at that point Yablon said, “we decided to take matters into our own hands.”
The three friends posted Facebook statuses asking if anyone had seen Vongtau, and got a response saying his shoes had been found on the seventh floor of Lafayette Hall. Yablon says the three went door-to-door on the seventh floor in response to this information and learned from residents that Vongtau was last seen heading up the stairs at approximately 7 a.m. on Saturday, when a fire alarm was set off and the building was evacuated...
[Nicholas Liem]Liem reported that he, Yablon, and the third student began searching the stairs for clues after speaking with seventh floor residents. They speculated that Vongtau used the emergency exit to the roof from the eighteenth floor stairway, and the additional alarm set off by the door went undetected in the midst of the noise caused by the fire alarm. Yablon said that at 3 p.m. Sunday they took this information to NYU Public Safety officials, asking them to search the roof, or at least its cameras’ footage, for signs of Vongtau.
NYU spokesman John Beckman stated, "One of the public safety officers was the person who found him in a very small space between 80 Lafayette St. and a [neighboring] garage."
The FDNY arrived in the late afternoon. They administered oxygen and an IV to Vongtau and ended up breaking through a wall to extricate him. It took about an hour and a half for the FDNY to remove him.
It's unclear how far the student fell. WCBS 2 reports, "Investigators said that they are not sure if Vongtau fell from the roof but a source close to the investigation said that he may have been under the influence of a controlled substance at the time."