NYU Student Trapped for 36 Hours Considered Cutting Off His Arm, Mom Says

By Trevor Kapp on November 5, 2013 2:00pm 

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 Asher Vongtau was rescued Sunday night after disappearing Saturday afternoon.
NYU Student Rescued After Being Trapped Between Two Buildings For 36 Hours
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TRIBECA — The New York University student who was trapped in a narrow gap between two buildings spent 36 hours screaming for help, thinking about his family and contemplating cutting off his own arm, his mother said Tuesday.

Standing outside Bellevue Hospital Center about noon on Tuesday, Habiba Vongtau said her son, 19-year-old Asher Vongtau, told her he never gave up hope during the harrowing ordeal.

“He began to think about the movie where the guy chops off his arm,” she said of the flick "127 Hours," in which a mountain-climber played by James Franco severs his own trapped limb to escape death.

“He thought, ‘Am I gonna have to do that?’ He thought about his family. He thought, ‘I’m not gonna give up.’ He just yelled for help as much as he could," she said.

The political science major fell early Saturday morning into a narrow space between a dorm building and an adjacent building while climbing a fire escape trying to get back into his friend's room, officials said.

After a day and a half of frantic searching by his friends and school security, Vongtau was found Sunday night by a guard who discovered his cell phone on the fire escape and heard his moans, the FDNY and police said.

Firefighters set up an IV line while Vongtau was trapped to reduce his dehydration, and then carefully broke down a wall to take him to safety, his mother and FDNY officials said.

“He’s overwhelmed by the Fire Department,” Habiba Vongtau said outside Bellevue Hospital Center, where her son is recovering from a fractured skull, pelvis and arm.

“One of them came around the day I got here, yesterday,” she added. “The minute [Asher] saw him, he was like, ‘Oh my God.’ He said those guys were like Navy SEALs.”

Habiba Vongtau, a neuropharmacological researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, raced to New York as soon as she got a call Sunday night from Asher’s friends. She was at his bedside early Monday morning, she said.

She said she was not sure when her son will leave the hospital, but is simply happy he’s alive.

“He’s in great spirits because he knows he had no business getting out of that hole,” she said. “It was a miracle. It’s an incredible story, really.”

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