A man who police suspect of attempting to rob a shuttered Chinese restaurant in San Lorenzo, California found himself in a potentially fatal situation after he became trapped in a metal duct, where he reportedly remained for two days before someone found him.
Photos shared by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office showed the man trapped in the cramped duct, unable to move and covered in grease. The sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the man was located by the owner of a nearby business who heard his cries for help.
The reporting citizen, heard a faint voice calling for help at a neighboring vacant Chinese food restaurant.
When first responders arrived on scene, they could hear the voice and quickly determined it was coming from a roof vent atop the restaurant. A ladder was extended and personnel were able to locate a 29 year old man trapped in a sheet metal grease duct running from the roof to the kitchen.
Igor Campos, who found the man, told ABC-affiliate KGO-TV: “I keep hearing this ah, ah and I’m like, ‘Who can it be?’”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said it took firefighters nearly an hour to remove enough sheet metal to get the man out of the duct and through the restaurant’s kitchen. According to KGO-TV, the Chinese restaurant had been out of business for months.
By the time authorities were able to free him, the man was dehydrated and had suffered cuts and bruises, and the sheriff’s office said in a statement that chances are “he [would] not have survived another day given the circumstances.” He was transported to a local hospital, where he is expected to make a full recovery.
In what seems like a bizarre response given its own acknowledgment of the situation being potentially deadly had the man not been found, Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesperson Sgt. Ray Kelly told KGO-TV that “we can confirm this man was not Santa Claus and did not have legal authority to be here.”
The case is now being turned over to the district attorney. The sheriff’s office said it was “unknown if the suspect intended to commit a burglary,” and that the incident is currently being investigated for trespassing and vandalism.