Street Sweeper Recovers After Storm Drain Fall

By Greg Cergol
|  Thursday, Jun 16, 2011  |  Updated 7:13 AM EDT
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Recovering from a fall into a storm drain, a Long Island street sweeper talks about his recovery and the scary ordeal.

Recovering from a fall into a storm drain, a Long Island street sweeper talks about his recovery and the scary ordeal.

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His right eye blackened, his wrists wrapped in bandages, a street sweeper who fell into an open storm drain earlier in the week said on Wednesday that he felt as bad as he looked.

"I feel like I was hit by a truck," said Joe Hranicka, who fell into an open storm drain in Uniondale on Monday and was trapped there until Tuesday morning.

Hranicka, 50, spoke to NBC New York from his hospital bed at Nassau University Medical Center Wednesday.  He expects to remain hospitalized for several weeks with broken wrists, broken ribs and facial fractures.

"I was so scared nobody was going to find me," Hranicka said of his eight hour ordeal at the bottom of that storm drain.

"It was an isolated area.  I was screaming every time I heard a person walking by."

Bicyclist Tim Eareackson eventually heard Hranicka and called for help.  Police and fire rescuers pulled Hranicka to safety.

"It was just a relief to see his face staring down into the hole," Hranicka said of his rescuer.  "I knew I was going to be okay."

Hranicka's street sweeper had been cleaning a parking lot adjacent to some vacant stores Monday night.

He plunged into the storm drain, Nassau police said, after moving the piece of wood that covered the hole.  The drain's protective metal grate had been removed earlier.  It's unclear who was responsible for that.

"I feel dumb about what happened," said Hranicka, who explained that, in the darkness, he couldn't see the open hole before stepping into it.

"It should have been roped off, put up cones; some kind of warning," Hranicka added.

The Deer Park man has retained a lawyer, who explained that he's "reserving judgment" on a lawsuit.  The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.

The manager of the Uniondale property placed the wooden board over the open hole, according to police.  The property manager's Manhattan firm, Phillips International, has not returned calls for comment.

Hranicka's mom sat at his bedside, as he recounted his ordeal.

Angie Hranicka is holding a special gift for the next time she sees the bicyclist who helped save her son.

"I keep money in my pocket just to give to him to say thanks."

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