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Video of worker's fiery rescue goes viral

By Sara Sneath
April 6, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated April 5, 2014 at 11:06 p.m.

In this image taken from video provided by Karen Jones, a worker reaches for an extension ladder to escape a raging fire as firefighters battle a five-alarm blaze at a construction site March 25 in Houston. The cellphone video, shot by Karen Jones from her nearby office, shows the dramatic rescue of the worker from the burning apartment complex that was under construction. (AP Photo/Karen Jones) NO SALES

Struggling to get a gasp of fresh air, Curtis Reissig punched a window of the burning Houston building he was trapped in.

"It didn't crack. I just thought, 'I'm going to lay down here and die,'" Reissig said.

The construction worker made it out of the luxury apartments he was helping to build with the assistance of firefighters, the structure collapsing seconds later.

A video of Reissig's narrow escape has gone viral. On Sunday, the YouTube video had more than 7 million views.

Reissig is a Houston man with family who lives in Victoria.

Reissig, 56, attempted to put out a fire on the roof of the luxury apartments under construction at 2400 W. Dallas St. around lunchtime March 25. But the wind picked up during his attempt, consuming the building in flames and smoke and trapping Reissig on the fifth floor.

"I went into the smoke and started choking and gagging. It didn't smell like campfire smoke. It smelled toxic," he said.

Reissig made his way to a patio, where he could see the flames growing larger. He looked for a way to climb down the building, making his mind up to jump to a lower patio.

"My mind was going a million miles an hour. I could focus like I never have in my life before," Reissig said.

Reissig twisted his ankle when he hit the lower platform, from which a firefighter pulled Reissig onto a ladder. As the ladder swung away from the building, burning chunks peeled away, narrowly missing Reissig and the firefighter.

"As I was walking to the ambulance, I was thinking, 'I hope somebody got this on video,'" Reissig said.

A woman working in a nearby office building filmed the scene with her cellphone.

The luxury apartments were completely burned. The fire also caused damage to the complex's parking garage, he said.

Reissig, who sustained second-degree burns to his face and hand, and the firefighters who saved him have since been flown to New York for interviews on the "Today" show and "Inside Edition," he said.

"I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," Reissig said of the firefighters.

Since the fire, Reissig has been trying harder to work on the relationships in his life.

"I want to be more in touch with the people I love," Reissig said.

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