Five-hour rescue pulls man from abandoned tower

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  • August 22, 2014 - 6:02 PM

A harrowing five-hour rescue early Thursday of a man who had fallen 60 feet inside a derelict Minneapolis building was only the latest injury at the Fruen Mill, an abandoned ConAgra grain elevator and warehouse site that abuts Bassett Creek in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood.

The man and two others ignored “no trespassing” signs to enter the empty building late Wednesday night, but when he fell to the bottom of a silo there he couldn’t get back out, said Asst. Minneapolis Fire Chief Charles Brynteson. The man survived his long fall with only lacerations, a possible broken jaw and a possible concussion thanks to a bed of loose soil that cushioned the impact, said Brynteson.

“He’s very fortunate,” he said.

Just getting to the spot where the man fell required two separate climbs by firefighters. The rescuers followed the same path the explorers did, climbing to the top of one building before moving to a second building and climbing to the top of it. From that spot, the firefighters lowered one of their own to the bottom of the tower. The injured man was put into a harness and lifted to safety; the firefighters then had to carry him back down following the same route into the complex. The man was conscious and alert throughout the rescue, said Brynteson.

A similar fall in 2006 killed a 32-year-old Burnsville man who was exploring the crumbling site with friends. He fell when a concrete beam gave way, police said at the time. A few months before his death, an 18-year-old Robbinsdale man survived a 70 foot fall inside the complex.

The tower, near the intersection of Thomas and Third Avenues north, has been the subject of on-again, off-again redevelopment talks for years. It sits adjacent to the former Glenwood Springs property. Three months ago, a company called Push Interactive moved into the Glenwood site with plans to convert it to office, brewery and restaurant space.

Push Interactive owner Chris Jahnke said a complicated, yearlong negotiation with the Burlington Northern railroad (the tracks run past the property) has been resolved and Push has tentative plans to break ground next spring, he said. The company already has 15 people working in a 4,000-sq.-ft. space they’ve renovated.

Jahnke said a brewery deal could be imminent for the spot, saying beermakers like the possibility of using the natural spring water still flowing through the onsite pumps. “We have a bunch of interested tenants,” he said.

The owner of the mill since 2006 has been Minneapolis developer Paul Fry of Frich Development. He couldn’t be reached Friday, but has said in the past that he plans to convert the mill into a suite of condos with views of downtown Minneapolis and Theodore Wirth Park. The only recent activity at the property, according to the city of Minneapolis website, was in April when someone applied for a permit to monitor wells on the property.

Image: An early morning sun rises on the Fruen Mill complex near Thomas and Glenwood Avenues North in this 2005 Star Tribune photo. Credit: Liz Flores.

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