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Man's fall sparks questions about who keeps sidewalk grates safe in uptown Charlotte

Firefighters were called in to rescue a man who fell through a sidewalk grate in uptown Charlotte in the middle of protests over the death of George Floyd.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the middle of the protests in Charlotte this weekend, firefighters were called in to rescue a man who fell through a grate on a sidewalk in uptown. The incident is raising serious concerns about pedestrian safety in the Queen City. 

If you live or work in uptown, you likely walk over sidewalk grates all the time and would never think you’d fall through. For now, the reason behind the latest incident remains a mystery.

The dramatic moments unfolded on live television. A man had fallen dozens of feet underground, while protesters were facing off with police in uptown Charlotte. Firefighters got the call around 11:15 p.m. on Saturday.

RELATED: Man rescued after falling through Charlotte sidewalk grate during protests

“Thought to be a protester had fallen into a below-grade area,” Charlotte Fire Captain Dennis Gist said.

However, questions remain about how the person fell through the sidewalk grate.

“As far as how he got there, we're not sure,” said Captain Gist.

The Charlotte Department of Transportation told WCNC Charlotte they don’t maintain sidewalk grates, but didn’t say who did.  

Duke Energy says they had a worker respond to the scene, but only to make sure their equipment was secured underground.

WCNC Charlotte reached out to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department to see if the fall was a result of infrastructure failure or if someone intentionally removed the grate and could face criminal charges. At this point, CMPD has not provided any further details.

“It’s not something we see every day,” said Captain Gist.

Firefighters lowered a rescue stretcher under the ground, and fortunately, were able to carefully pull the man up and get him to an ambulance.

“It can always be challenging because of the unknowns, but we train for things such as that,” said Captain Gist.

Medic says the man was taken to the hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

“The individual ended up surviving, so it seems it turned out good for all,” said Captain Gist.

Duke Energy says the sidewalk grate is owned and maintained by private business, but WCNC Charlotte has not yet determined who owns it.


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Independent autopsy says George Floyd died from 'asphyxiation from sustained pressure'

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