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Trapped Worker Rescued from Sand Silo

Thursday, February 9, 2012

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Federal authorities are investigating how a concrete company supervisor was nearly buried alive this week in a 25-foot silo containing 50,000 pounds of sand.

Emergency crews spent several hours Monday rescuing Dukane Precast supervisor William Ortiz, 37, who became entrapped in sand up to his waist shortly after 11 a.m. in a silo inside the company, in Naperville, IL.

Investigation Underway

Ortiz was on a catwalk before he entered the silo, company spokeswoman Lissa Christman told one local newspaper. It was not clear how Ortiz had become trapped or how long he was in the sand before he was able to get help.

 Dukane Precast, Naperville, IL

 Dukane Precast

The worker was trapped four hours inside a sand silo at Dukane Precast, in Naperville, IL.

“We don’t know how [Ortiz] got in there,” Naperville Fire Capt. Dave Ferreri told Naperville’s Trib Local. Ferreri said it was his understanding workers were never supposed to be inside the hoppers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.

Christman said in an interview Thursday (Feb. 9) that the company was conducting its own investigation and would not release any details until OSHA completes its investigation.  She said Ortiz had been released from the hospital and was expected to make a full recovery.

Massive Rescue

The Naperville Fire Department Special Rescue team was called to the scene at 11:23 a.m. to find Ortiz inside the silo, located inside a building at the facility. The silo was elevated 25 feet in the air and had limited access from the catwalk, the fire department said.

As soon as the first units arrived, they summoned additional rescue personnel and equipment, including a medical helicopter.

As teams from 22 surrounding fire agencies responded, the initial crew worked inside the silo to keep Ortiz from sinking deeper into the sand. Rescue workers also initiated Advanced Life Support care before moving any sand.

Then, using two vacuum trucks from Naperville’s Department of Public Utilities, crews began vacuuming sand from around Ortiz and trucking it away from the location. Once some of the sand was cleared from his waist, a rescue harness was placed on him.

More sand was then drained from the bottom of the silo, to free Ortiz’s legs.

After four hours, he was freed from the top of the silo. When the medical helicopter proved unable to land, due to poor weather, Ortiz was placed in a rescue basket and lowered to the ground, where he was transported by ambulance to an area hospital.

OSHA Record

Dukane has a clean record with OSHA dating back to 2005, but the company was cited on three separate occasions in 2004.

In November 2004, OSHA cited the company for 13 serious and one non-serious violation and issued $19,894 in fines. Four serious citations were later dropped, and the company paid a fine of $9,750. Some of the violations involved lack of safety guards on stairways and machinery.

In October 2004, OSHA cited the company for five serious and one non-serious violation related to respiratory protection and lockout/tagout violations. Three of the serious citations were later dropped, and the $19,500 fine was reduced to $6,000.

In April 2004, OSHA issued one serious citation related to aerial lifts. The $625 fine was later reduced to $437.50.

“This is a small, family-run company,” Christman told the Trib Local. “We want to make sure everything was done properly and make sure everyone is OK.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Concrete; Health and safety; OSHA

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/10/2012, 10:58 AM)

He is VERY lucky, and probably had some careful rescuers. A waist-high engulfment can easily become a fatality during rescue due to Crush Syndrome (a type of "reperfusion injury.")

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