An urban explorer who found himself stuck in a drainage tunnel on the edge of downtown Minneapolis was safely rescued early Tuesday morning.
Police and firefighters were called to the St. Anthony Main area around 3 a.m. on a report of a man stuck in a tunnel underneath the Pillsbury A building.
Police said two urban explorers used sophisticated climbing gear to get into the tunnels through an old overflow drain pipe. They went through some cold water in the tunnels and one of the men didn't have the strength to get back out afterward.
Rescuers say the man was wearing a life vest, but his muscles cramped up. His friend eventually got out and was able to call 911. They added that he was lucky because sometimes, there's just not enough oxygen down there and a number of people have died during this type of risky exploring.
Using a retrieval system of ropes, harnesses and ladders, Minneapolis firefighters traveled nearly 200 feet to reach the trapped man. The rescued explorer was loaded into an ambulance and the scene was cleared by 6:30 a.m.
Though it's dark, dirty and dangerous, that doesn't stop urban explorers from sneaking into some of the historic mills and tunnels around the Twin Cities -- but since the climbers are also breaking the law by trespassing on private property, the idea of calling for help is much more difficult.
"The dangerous part is: It's dark, no one knows you're here, you're in an old structure, a river runs through it, the building is shut down, they're doing some renovations," explained Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel told FOX 9 News. "You just don't know what you're getting into when you go in these old structures."
When it comes to crawling around under Minneapolis, Greg Brick literally wrote the book. He explored miles of tunnels, many made before the civil war, and authored "Subterranean Twin Cities."
"I think a lot of people are just out there for the adventure and the curiosity," he said.
What's known as urban exploration is a popular underground activity that is often done at night since much of it is illegal, but there are still websites dedicated to sharing pictures and tricks of the trade to help others explore old buildings like the Pillsbury Flour Mill.
"People definitely have to know what the dangers of the place they're going in are," Brick said.