SAN LORENZO, CA (KGO/CNN) - Authorities say a man they discovered trapped in a California restaurant’s grease vent is lucky to be alive and may not have survived another day.
Business owner Igor Campos had been hearing strange noises coming from a vacant Chinese restaurant next door for two days. Finally, he went to investigate the moaning Wednesday morning.
Campos discovered a 29-year-old man covered in grease stuck in a restaurant exhaust vent.
"I start asking questions, like ‘What’s your name?’ And he was like, ‘Just please help me. Get me out of here... Please don’t hurt me.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not trying to hurt you. I’m trying to help you,’” Campos said.
Campos called 911, and investigators determined the man was likely trying to break into the restaurant.
"We can confirm that this gentleman was not Santa Claus and did not have legal authority to be here,” said Alameda County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly. “Often times, suspects try to break into vacant businesses to steal copper wire and plumbing and recycling for money. So, this appears to be something along those lines.”
When first responders arrived on scene, all they could see from below was the man’s leg and foot. Firefighters had to dismantle the vent in order to free him. It took almost an hour, according to the sheriff’s office.
"Our crews had to remove a lot of the sheet metal in order to gain access to him and bring him down into the kitchen,” said Fire Battalion Chief John Whiting.
Once the suspect was freed, he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. The sheriff’s office says the man was physically exhausted and suffering from dehydration. He is expected to make a full recovery.
"I know he’s facing some consequences, but the good thing is that he’s alive, and I was able to save his life,” Campos said.
Kelly says he’s not sure yet what charges the 29-year-old may face. The case is being investigated as trespassing and vandalism because it’s unknown if the man intended to commit a burglary.