NAPLES — It wasn’t Santa Claus coming down the chimney of a home early Wednesday morning. Naples police say it was a man who intended to rob a home after he ran out of money during a night of drinking.
But Richard Tyler Brandon, 25, got stuck half way down the chimney.
His friend, Derek Grenfell, 26, told authorities he warned his friend not to go down the chimney. “I said, ‘Dude, you’re not Santa Claus, what are you doing.”
The Naples Daily News reports Grenfell went looking for help and found police officers at a nearby gas station. They called for additional help from police and firefighters, forced their way into the home and saw a sooty, shoeless foot dangling inside the fireplace.
“That was our first real indication that we had somebody indeed stuck in a chimney,” said Naples Fire Chief Steve McInerny.
It took two hours to pull Brandon out of the chimney with a harness. He was taken to the hospital for treatment after complaining of back and leg pain and difficulty breathing.
“There is a chance he could have died,” said Naples detective Robert Young. “That space he was jammed into was really tight. He couldn’t move.”
Brandon told the newspaper he was feeling “a little better” Wednesday afternoon. But by day’s end he and Grenfell were in the Collier County Jail. Brandon faces two counts of burglary charges. Grenfell is charged with two counts of burglary accessory after the fact. Both remained in jail on Thursday morning.
Homeowner Mike Whitley was contacted at his other home in Kentucky early Wednesday by the company that provides security at his Naples home. They told him a man was stuck in his chimney.
“At first you think it’s a joke,” Whitley said, calling it “a reverse kind of Santa.”
Whitley and his wife, Faye, were planning on coming to Naples in the next few days. He w onders what they would have found if police had not been alerted.
“I think if we’d have come back Sunday, he’d still be yelling,” Whitley said. “By Tuesday, no. Maybe an aroma.”