slippery situations

Man Survives Being Trapped for Two Days Inside Restaurant Grease Vent

What happens in the vent stays in the vent. Photo: Alameda County Sheriff’s Office/Twitter

Imagine, if you will, the incredible pain that comes from spending two days lodged inside a metal chute, your legs crimped below you in an interminable squat and your hands stretched involuntarily upward until the end of time. I expect most of you will have a hard time wrapping your mind around this precise sensation, probably the bodily equivalent of an extended piercing scream. That seems to be the reason that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office went easy on a man they recently found wedged inside the grease vent of an empty Chinese restaurant in San Lorenzo, California.

“We decided to be a little compassionate,” Sergeant Ray Kelly, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Department, told NPR. “We figured he’s been through enough and it is in the holiday spirit.”

Still, the 29-year-old interloper — found next to naked and completely slicked with old oil — has been “less than truthful about his … intentions” with the vent. I am not sure what compels a person to climb up onto an abandoned restaurant’s roof, strip down to their undershirt, and take a trip down the grease slide, but officers expect the motive has something to do with stealing appliances. In any case, this would-be bandit miscalculated.

“He’s a pretty slender guy and based on the viscosity of the walls,” and the fact that “he took off his clothes,” Kelly mused, suggests “he probably thought he was going to slide [right] down.” But this vent was not strictly vertical, and when he hit a bend in the road, he found himself folded into the aforementioned nightmare crouch. After two days, one Igor Campos — whose tax-prep business sits right next door to Chef Kwong restaurant — decided to follow the disembodied groan he’d noticed to its source.

“I keep hearing this ‘ah, ah,’ and I’m like, ‘Who can it be?’” Campos told KGO-TV. Upon discovering a man inside his neighbor’s vent, he continued, “I kept asking questions like, ‘What’s your name?’ And he said, ‘Just please help me … please don’t hurt me.’” Campos called 911, which arrived to find a human leg and foot dangling above the restaurant’s stove.

Freeing the trespasser required authorities to devise a “plan of attack,” Kelly told NPR, because the man was covered in grease and because of the vent’s sharp edges. “I describe it like a boa constrictor’s teeth: They only go one way,” Kelly told the Washington Post. “He was … so slippery that he could have fallen back down into the chute and we would have been in the same boat.” In the end, firefighters spent an hour cutting the man out of the duct. Exhausted and dehydrated, he was then transported to a local hospital for treatment. He has since been rehydrated and scrubbed of his hell coat.

Man Rescued After Two Days Trapped in Grease Vent