Drill Rig Operator Still Missing After 4 Days

May 24, 2018
Two cranes were required to move a drill rig at the Phoenix airport.

As of Wednesday evening, Phoenix Fire Department and its Technical Rescue Team crews have made it 22 feet down as they continue to search for the operator of a drilling rig that had toppled over Monday while working on a project at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

 Above: Two cranes were required to move a drill rig. Photo: Phoenix Fire Department

The operator, whose name has not been released, is thought to have fallen into the steep and deep trench filled with very unstable ground. At the time, the drill rig was drilling a hole for one of the piers that is part of the airport's Skytrain expansion. The rig itself blocked rescue efforts on Monday even though crews worked into the night to remove large parts of the machine to unblock the trench and attempt to right the rig.

Wednesday, vacuum excavation trucks were brought in and removed about 50 tons of dirt. Capt. Larry Subervi of the Phoenix Fire Department said the loose dirt in the recovery area is making the effort difficult as well as dangerous for the crews working on the site. Subervi is concerned for the safety of the crew and is not extending operations into the night. While the goal is to recover the rig operator's body, the work is slow and methodical. 

“The biggest thing we can do for him and honor him right now is to make sure nobody else is injured,” Subervi said.

The operator worked for Case Foundations, a subcontractor for Hensel Phelps.

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