A white-knuckle three-hour rescue operation managed to safely free a Florida construction worker who had been trapped waist-deep in soil in a city storm drain.
It took a painstaking effort by local emergency response teams to pull out the 57-year-old worker, but he was conscious and responsive when transported by ambulance to an area hospital after the ordeal Tuesday (Aug. 14) morning, authorities said.
Photos: Clearwater Fire and Rescue
|Rescue crews worked for hours to free the worker. "As we continued to dig it out, more kept coming in, and he kept sinking further down," a city spokeswoman said.|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is among several agencies investigating the accident, which could have cost the unidentified worker his life.
The episode began about 8:20 a.m., when the man fell through the soil and became stuck about six feet below ground level at an intersection where his employer, Caladesi Construction of Largo, was working on storm-drainage maintenance for the city, officials said.
Teams from several area fire, technical rescue and emergency operations jurisdictions responded within minutes.
The worker was never more than waist-deep in the muddy soil, but the soil tightened around his waist and created suction that made it impossible to pull the man out. And because the soil was loose and runny, more poured in and the man sunk deeper as rescuers dug.
‘He Kept Sinking’
“The soil was so loose and saturated,” City of Clearwater spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts told a local television station. “As we continued to dig it out, more kept coming in, and he kept sinking further down.”
The three dozen responders worked in shifts because of the heat, but every hole they dug immediately filled with soil.
Finally, Watts said, “they put him in a harness and they had to go in and dig the dirt out from underneath and actually push him up onto the ladder to get him out.”
Caladesi Construction said in a statement: “When the employee became stuck and could not immediately be freed by himself and/or coworkers, emergency help was requested... . Our main concern at this point is the health, safety, and welfare of our employee.”
Watts says the company has had no previous problems in the city.
However, the company does have a record with OSHA. The agency cited the contractor for a serious violation in December 2009, six serious violations in August 2008, and six serious violations in 2004.
Also, in 2010, OSHA included Caladesi on a list of “15,000 Companies with High Injury Rates.”