MANALAPAN TOWNSHIP, N.J., Jan. 17 (UPI) — A New Jersey man was rescued Friday after spending at least 4 hours trapped in an empty pipe at a water treatment plant, authorities said. Officials said Asef Mohammad, 26, of Manalapan Township scaled a chain-link and barbed-wire fence surrounding a United Water facility not far from his home, then climbed into a holding tank to reach a decommissioned 20-inch-diameter pipe, where he got stuck, the Asbury Park Press reported. Why he did it was still a mystery to officials.
“There is no reason for anyone whatsoever to climb into a pipe,” said Rich Henning, a spokesman for United Water. “It is a facility that pumps water, pumps it out of the ground.
“In 25 years in this business, I have never seen this happen.”
Jim Mastrokalos, director of operations for United Water, said workers heard a faint cry for help and eventually traced the voice to the pipe, where they found Mohammad about 10-12 feet into the pipe shortly after 7 a.m. EST, the newspaper said.
“Obviously, that pipe would not be the first place they’d look,” Mastrokalos said of the employees. “But they were proactive and didn’t ignore it.”
Assistant Fire Chief Ken Genieczko said rescue crews had to dismantle the pipe section by section to reach Mohammad, then used a harness to pull him out about 11 a.m.
Mohammad was described as alert and talking, though hypothermia was a concern, Genieczko said.
Mohammad later placed under arrest and was to be charged with fourth-degree trespassing, the newspaper said.
First responders removed a Manalapan man from a 24-inch pipe within the United Water facility, located on Wilson Avenue in Manalapan Township, Friday morning.
Asaf Mohammad, 26, of Emily Drive in Manalapan was pulled out of the pipe at around 11 a.m. Friday, Captain Michael Fountain of the Manalapan Police Department said.
An employee of United Water heard someone screaming for help while he was walking the perimeter of the facility shortly after 7 a.m. He, and other employees, were able to pinpoint the screams from within the pipe, Fountain said.
First responders were able to break apart part of the pipe that was horizontal and then were able to look down through the vertical portion of the pipe were Mohammad was located. According to police, Mohammad went into the pipe head first, but was able to turn himself around while inside at one of the intersections underground and stand back up and responders were able to pull him out while he was standing.
According to police, Mohammad was naked when he was removed from the pipe. Authorities are unsure of how long he was in the pipe, but believe it to be several hours before the employees located him. Once Mohammad was extracted, he was flown by a medical helicopter to Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick for treatment. His condition appeared to be non-life threatening, according to Fountain, but hypothermia was a concern.
Police do not know how or why Mohammad entered the United Water facility or how he got inside of the pipe or onto the grounds. He has been charged with trespassing.
Fountain said that there is an officer at the hospital attempting to ascertain more information from Mohammad and detectives still investigating the grounds of the United Water facility in order to determine what precisely happened and to see if additional charges should be filed.
Along with the Manalapan Police Department and Englishtown Police Department, the Manalapan Township Fire Company #1, Gordons Corner Fire Department, Englishtown Fire Department, Englishtown-Manalapan First Aid Squad, New Jersey State Police Medevac all responded to the scene. The Monroe Fire Department, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, and New Jersey State Police all sent out their confined space rescue teams to the scene, as well.
Manalapan Mayor Jordan Maskowitz sent out an email alert Friday stating that United Water said that the incident does not affect the water quality and water supply to residents.
Pamela Geller is the Editor of PamelaGeller.com