FIREFIGHTERS RESCUE 800-POUND MAN; 3 WALLS TORN DOWN IN EFFORT.
Firefighters used crowbars and saws to tear down apartment walls and free an 800-pound man Thursday after he complained of breathing problems, officials said.
John Swaney, 57, an attorney and former announcer for KFWB (980-AM), was in stable condition at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.
Residents at the apartment complex watched in amazement as some 30 firefighters smashed through three walls about 8:45 a.m. to retrieve Swaney from his apartment in the 11200 block of Morrison Street in North Hollywood.
Firefighters from the Urban Search & Rescue team in Sherman Oaks fashioned a gurney from plywood and steel pipes and used a forklift to move him into the ambulance.
``We kind of had to wing it. Like the Egyptians building the Pyramids,'' Los Angeles Fire Capt. Mark Saxelby said of the improvised gurney.
Swaney was first taken to Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, but medical equipment was not suitable for the patient's weight, hospital officials said. So he was transferred to County/USC Medical Center.
Firefighters had been called out to treat Swaney at least twice before in the past month, and they grew worried about his health and ability to get out of his apartment, said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Stephen Ruda.
Coincidentally, fire crews were scheduled to visit Swaney on Thursday to develop a plan in case he had to be removed in an emergency, Saxelby said.
``Well, we have our plan now, and it worked,'' he said.
For at least the past month, Swaney has been confined to his bed, which is supported by bricks, officials said.
``He basically ran his business from his bed,'' Ruda said.
Swaney was one of the first anchormen for KFWB when it converted to an all-news format in 1968, said Crys Quimby, station news director. Ten years later, he began a full-time law practice after graduating from Loyola Law School.
In 1986, he joined another radio station, KGIL (1260-AM), where he hosted a morning-drive talk show, ``Breakfast Edition,'' Quimby said.
A friend regularly brought Swaney food, neighbors said. One neighbor, Susanna Foster, said she was sorry to see Swaney in such condition.
``I know a gentleman and a cultured man when I see one and he is one of them - gracious and kind and wanting to help,'' Foster said.
Swaney has struggled with his weight problem for many years, said Charlie Brailer, who worked with Swaney at KFWB-News radio in Hollywood for 10 years.
``In recent years, he has been almost housebound,'' Brailer said. ``But he operates a law referral business out of his home that's very successful.''
Photo: (1) Los Angeles Firefighters lift John Swaney into an ambulance to take him to a hospital.
Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News