A 37-year old employee of Jay's Excavating became trapped after falling into a trench in Warren, Michigan last night.
The man's co-workers said he jumped into the trench to fix something before leaving for the day, but became trapped and partially buried by clay when one of the trench walls collapsed around him. The trench did not have a trench box. The trench is part of a new hotel construction site near Van Dyke.
It took Warren firefighters several hours to rescue the man because when emergency crews arrived a second wall of clay caved in, covering the worker. He was able to get himself above the dirt line to breathe, according to Warren Fire Commissioner Skip McAdams.
Paramedics placed an oxygen mask on the trapped man and started an intravenous line on him to deliver fluids and pain medication, hoping he’d stay conscious and alert and keep his body temperature at a normal level despite the cooler conditions 12 feet below the surface.
The moist clay in the trench was especially dangerous because it can quickly mold around and buried person's body, causing pressure that will restrict blood flow and increase the risk of tissue loss and shock.
Wood panels were assembled to shore up the trench walls and create a more stable area. Two firefighters, suspended head-first by ropes, used hand shovels to carve away the clay surrounding the worker.
The worker was pulled alive from the hole after two hours and taken to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak in critical condition. He could possible lose both of his legs.
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts praised members of the Warren Fire Department rescue team for their effort, saying “They did almost surgical, precision effort that rescued this individual from this clay. They did a terrific and heroic job.”
Fouts said the excavating company could be fined up to $100,000 by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration for not using a trench box even though a box was on the worksite.
Watch the hour long video of the rescue is on WDIV Local 4's Facebook page.
Video, screen cap: WDIV