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Just How Cold Was It in Hamilton Last Night?


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This one made it to Fark. :)

"Really Dumb," Admits Dangling Teen

By Susan Clairmont

The Hamilton Spectator

More articles by this columnist

(Feb 15, 2007)

He was dangling by a rope for two hours, upside down in the dark from a bridge, half-naked in -20 C weather.

All for a chance to graffiti virgin territory.

They say teens' brains aren't hard-wired to fully understand the consequences of their actions.

Here we have proof of that.

Take a 15-year-old kid on a newly constructed bridge and hand him a rope and a can of orange spray paint and it takes a nanosecond before he does something stupid.

Really stupid.

He started with a plan to toboggan on Saturday night. He left his Dundas home at 8 o'clock and walked to a hill a short distance away.

It is near a new bridge over a railway track at Newman Road. Tobogganing is fun, but the allure of a construction site strewn with debris was too strong to resist. He says he found a can of paint, some rope and had his Eureka! moment.

"I was by myself. I see graffiti everywhere, all the time. I can draw stuff."

That's about all the thought that went into it.

He tied one end of the rope to the bridge railing. The other end around his waist. He left his gloves and his cellphone up above, grabbed the paint and ... over he went. Rappelling to that unblemished sweet spot.

It didn't go the way he'd imagined it.

The rope slipped. Wound up around his legs, tangled. Flipped him head down. Thirty feet below the bridge. Eight feet above the train tracks. He dropped the spray paint.

He knew this wasn't good. Maybe if he wriggled out of his coat, he'd be able to get free.

That didn't work. Now he was just in his sweatshirt. How about the boots? That didn't work either. Now there were only socks.

"I thought I could get out easier," he says.

As he struggled and yanked at his clothes, he ripped both pant legs until the shorts underneath were all that was between him and the elements.

And the elements were really cold.

"I was trying to get untangled. But then I was confused. I didn't know what was going to happen, how I was going to get down."

Two hours went by.

By 10 p.m., a family party was breaking up at a nearby house. The home was separated from the bridge and the dangling boy by some woods. Relatives were heading out into the night.

One guest came back inside. Someone was calling for help out in the dark.

Panos Calgsounis grabbed his jacket and went to investigate. He heard it too.

"It was a young voice," Panos says.

He yelled back. "Do you need help? Where are you?"

When he got the answer, Panos and another man drove to the bridge. They couldn't see anyone. Just a rope, wound around the railing.

"I'm underneath the bridge," the boy shouted up.

Yes. There he was. Dangling.

Back at the house, someone was calling 911. A lot happened in the seconds after that. Three cops and a police dog were dispatched. So was an ambulance. CP Rail was called. Trains were stopped from passing under the bridge so the boy wouldn't be struck.

Despite the ice and the height, Panos, 32, stepped over the rail. He and the other man pulled the 150-pound teen up to safety. Panos put his jacket over the boy. The other man ran for blankets.

"He was frozen," Panos says. "But he had all of his bearings. He didn't know what to say or what to do."

The kid said he was snowmobiling and three men jumped him, tied him up and threw him off the bridge.

Hmmm. Not exactly true.

"I lied," he says. "I didn't want to get in trouble."

The boy's mom was called by paramedics. She met her son at the hospital where he was treated for minor hypothermia. She was worried. Then ...

"I was furious," she says.

The teen says he has never graffitied before and won't try it again. He is grateful to Panos and embarrassed by the commotion his failed stunt caused.

He agreed to be interviewed on the condition that his name not be used.

He is lucky to be alive, say police, who let him off with a warning. He could have froze to death. Or plunged to the ground. Or been killed by a train.

But it's not the first time a teen armed with spray paint and big ideas has tried to graffiti a dangerous spot.

"We know of young people who shimmy up signs above the Linc to do their graffiti with traffic driving underneath," Superintendent Ken Bond says. "If parents know their children are doing graffiti, they need to have a talk about the risks they're taking."

The would-be graffiti artist is sheepish. But he has learned a few things.

"I have learned not to do things without thinking them through. What I did was really dumb."

So, if he had successfully rappelled off the bridge with his spray paint to that blank canvas he was so keen on reaching, what would he have drawn?

"I don't really know," he says. "I didn't think that far ahead."

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Ok, just checking. Wow, if that flies in Hamilton, just think of what I can get away with in our little south-Ottawa village....

Funny thing is, the line,

The kid said he was snowmobiling and three men jumped him, tied him up and threw him off the bridge.

might even work around here. People do the oddest things for laughs.

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