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Scaffolding crew rescued from platform 45 stories above New York City

By Francesca Trianni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A motor failure left two men from a scaffold maintenance crew hanging for more than an hour on a platform outside a building 45 stories above New York City on Wednesday before they were pulled in by rescue workers, the fire department said.

The men were doing regular maintenance work when the middle motor of their platform got stuck 500 feet above the ground, and dangled outside the 46-story Hearst Tower in Manhattan.

About 60 firefighters from 12 companies rushed to the skyscraper, on 57th Street and 8th Avenue. Firefighters cut out a 4-foot by 4-foot piece from a glass panel on the 44th floor to rescue the workers in a 90-minute operation broadcast live by New York TV stations.

The fire department said this was a safer way rather than lowering rescue personnel from the roof of the building.

"Once you put people (rescuers) over, then you have the issue of bringing them back up," William Seelig, assistant chief of the New York Fire Department, said to a local news station.

Instead, a firefighter stepped onto the platform from the opening cut into the side of the building and assisted the workers back inside the skyscraper.

"You're not worried of how high it is, you're worried to get these guys to safety," the rescuer, Tom Gayron, told reporters.

An investigation is under way by the New York Department of Buildings and other agencies. The scaffold maintenance workers appeared to be in good condition, officials said. The platform was secured to the roof and posed no risk to the public.

The FDNY originally reported the men were window washers, but a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union said they were actually members of a scaffold maintenance crew.

(This story was corrected to say that the rescued workers were part of scaffold maintenance crew, and not window washers)

(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Maureen Bavdek)

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