CINCINNATI -- “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. We have a firefighter down.”
Those haunting words no first-responder wants to hear rang out over dispatch communication the morning of March 26, seconds after veteran Cincinnati firefighter Daryl Gordon fell several stories down an elevator shaft while battling a blaze at a Madisonville apartment building.
The four-alarm fire at the King's Tower complex on Dahlgren Street was first reported at about 5:45 a.m.
Fire crews said the fire was on the second floor of the complex. Firefighters had to rescue several people on the upper floors when they arrived.
Commanders at the scene issued the mayday call just after 6 a.m. when Gordon fell down the shaft.
“Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. We have a firefighter down,” a firefighter is heard saying over an edited audio clip that was posted online. The clip starts moments after the third alarm was struck. “He went down the shaft, fifth floor. He went down the shaft on the fourth floor."
For the next seven minutes firefighters are heard relaying audio updates on the situation to emergency dispatchers and other fire crews.
“He fell down the elevator shaft to the first floor,” a voice is heard speaking of Gordon, a 30-year veteran of the Cincinnati Fire Department.
A firefighter is next heard saying Gordon was on “floor two” and then requested to have crews “pop the door to the elevator.”
“We're sending help your way. We're sending help your way.”
“Be advised, we see the firefighter. We've got the elevator door open on four. He's down between the elevator and the shaft and he is on the second or third floor.”
It took crews several minutes to evaluate Gordon's situation and condition before they attempted to move him.
“We have located the firefighter. He’s right along side the car.”
They said Gordon was “not responsive” at the time.
“Rescue 9, I need you to breach the side of the elevator. I need you to bring tools… and breech the side of the elevator. Rescue 9. Rescue 14. Now, third floor.”
“He is wedged between the walls. He's unconscious at this time. And, he's bleeding profusely.”
Over the next two minutes crews discussed ways to get Gordon out of the building so he could receive medical treatment.
“I need Rescue 9 in the elevator to breach that elevator to get to the firefighter.”
“I need a couple of companies... I need them in the elevator shaft on the first floor. [I need] ladders leaned against the wall. If he comes loose, he's going to fall another story.”
Even as the rescue operation was taking place, fire crews were still working to help residents out of the building.
“The fire's out (but) we're still evacuating people in the building. We have an active Mayday in progress. We're attempting to extricate the firefighter at this time.”
It took nearly six-and-a-half minutes after the original mayday call, but firefighters eventually got Gordon out of the elevator shaft. They moved him to the lobby of the apartment complex and called for help.
Medics got to him moments later, according to the communication tape.
“Firefighter's been extricated. Being treated, triaged and packaged right now. We're waiting to evacuate him out of the building.”
Medics transported Gordon to University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treatment.
At the time, a fire chief at the scene said, “We could use the community’s prayers and prayers for the family [because] we have one of our brothers in dire straits right now. … He’s not in good shape.”
Gordon’s injuries were too much, though, and he lost his battle at the hospital.
"Today our Cincinnati firefighters did their jobs. They ran into a burning building and saved lives. Women and children were carried out of the building to safety,'' Mayor John Cranley said in an emotionally charged press conference just hours after Gordon was killed. Cranley ordered flags at City Hall to be at half-staff.
Gordon was survived by his wife and two children.
Several residents and two other firefighters were injured in the fire, officials said. But those injuries aren't considered life-threatening.
The Cincinnati Fire Department released its line of duty death report for FAO Daryl Gordon Thursday, and recommended millions of dollars in improvements in an effort to prevent future “catastrophic incidents."