A Manhattan man was trapped inside a steel-reinforced concrete jewelry vault overnight after firefighters ended up having to abandon an attempt to rescue him for safety reasons. Luckily, the vault was on a timer and opened on its own Wednesday morning.

The fire department was called to the midtown building Tuesday evening after the man became trapped while accessing his safety deposit box, Assistant Fire Chief John Sarrocco said. The vault was located at 580 Fifth Avenue in the World Diamond Tower, which houses several jewelry businesses.


Around 8:45pm Tuesday, authorities said the man had his hand in his safety deposit box inside the vault when an employee closed the doors, not knowing someone was trapped inside. The vault also had a timed lock mechanism, meaning at certain times, it will automatically lock, and doesn't reopen until the next morning.

"I usually use that vault, its huge, so I can understand how it happened," said Don Palmieri, of the Gem Certification Lab. "He was probably spending a little too much time inside going through the contents of his safe deposit box."

Vault Door
Alexander Shirokov

Fire and police were in communication with the man inside the vault, and could watch him on a security camera. They were also able to talk to him through his phone. No concerns about the amount of oxygen the man had were raised, because the 20 feet long by 40 feet wide vault has its own HVAC system.

“The process was started to breach the wall at the vault,” Assistant Fire Chief John Sarrocco said in a news conference at the scene.

10 hours passed, and the firefighters were able to get through more than two feet of concrete to reach the steel plating, but they stopped there because they were worried their rescue attempts could hurt the man inside.


“The problem with the plating is we’d have to use our torches," he said, “which would affect the environment for that person inside the vault.”

It was at 6am when the man was freed unharmed. The man was checked out and appeared to be fine. He declined to talk to reporters about his night inside the vault.

DGA Systems, which manages the vault, declined to comment on the incident.

Read more at NBC NY

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