CARROLLTON (CBSDFW.COM) – As Carrolton firefighters filed into Zach Rogan’s hospital room, they introduced themselves. The last time they saw him, he didn’t quite catch their names.
“I wanted to thank them,” said Rogan.
The 20-year-old construction worker fell into a 55 foot hole outside Good Elementary School in Carrolton Wednesday.
“Just took that step right into the hole,” he said. “Put my arms out to my side to slow myself down, wondering when the bottom was gonna come – and what it was going to feel like, when I hit.”
The impact smashed his vertebrae and left him stranded below ground.
“Holding myself up in this excruciating position,” said Rogan.
Above him, though, rescue crews assembled to help.
“What’s your name? How you doing down there?,” paramedic Chris O’Steen remembered calling out to him.
For more than an hour, O’Steen kept Rogan talking.
“Having them talk to me, kinda took my mind off it,” said Rogan.
“I think by the end of it, we were talking about his girlfriend and just kind of hanging out,” said O’Stee.
Captain Monty Neel, meanwhile, strapped into a harness for his own trip down the muddy hole, just 33 inches wide.
“It was a little bit spooky. About half way down, it seemed like surely I was at the bottom, and I looked down and saw there was still quite a long way to go,” said Neel.
For Rogan, the stranger’s face was a welcomed sight.
“It was great, seeing someone actually coming down to get me,” he said. “Once we started coming up, I just closed my eyes, it felt so good.”
“When I first felt that fresh air, Monty asked, ‘You know what that is?’ I said, ‘That’s fresh air’,” said Rogan. “I finally realized, it’s finally over.”
Rogan has undergone surgery for his broken back and hopes to be walking again soon. By coincidence, he has been training to become a firefighter himself.
He now has an open invitation to stop by the Carrolton Fire Department, anytime.