Intruder ‘corraled’ in restaurant vent

By Bill Colvard -

A man was rescued from the ventilation system of a local restaurant Tuesday, but the Mount Airy Police Department is being tight-lipped about who he is and how he got there.

“It’s about a 9 or a 10,” said John Shelton, Surry County emergency services director, when ranking the morning incident at the Golden Corral restaurant on Rockford Street on the scale of unusual calls he has dealt with during his tenure with EMS.

“We found the individual in the ventilation system over the stove or the grill,” said Capt. Alan Freeman of the Mount Airy Police Department. “We don’t know how long he was in there. We contacted the fire department and emergency services.”

Shelton said his department got the call at 9:35 a.m. and EMS, the police, Mount Airy Fire Department and Mount Airy Rescue Squad worked together to free the trapped man.

“It didn’t take longer than 20 minutes. We brought him out with ladder access to the roof,” Shelton said.

The unidentified man was transported to Northern Hospital of Surry County.

Shelton said employees noticed the ventilation fans were not working, and smoke was blowing back into the restaurant instead of being pulled outside as it should have been, giving a first clue that the vent was blocked.

“If we hadn’t found him, he’d probably be dead,” said Shelton.

Freeman added that the individual was still in the hospital Tuesday afternoon and has not been arrested.

“They’re keeping him for observation. We don’t want to serve him while he is being treated, and that really is all I can say. This is an ongoing investigation.”

Freeman declined to give the name of the individual, but said, “Talk to me tomorrow.”

While Shelton said he placed the oddness of the incident high on the proverbial scale of 1 to 10, it’s not entirely unique in Surry County, explaining that this is not the first time someone has been trapped in a ventilation system in Mount Airy.

“It’s happened here before, but it was a long time ago,” said Shelton, who doesn’t remember what year that was. “And then there was the guy at the jail back years ago who got stuck in the panels in the roof.

So this kind of thing happens, but not often.

By Bill Colvard

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.