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San Diego FFs free worker trapped over 5 hours in trench collapse

The worker, pinned by a large piece of concrete, had a fractured arm and his legs were folded backwards underneath the dirt


San Diego Fire-Rescue/Facebook

By Teri Figueroa
The San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — San Diego firefighters on Wednesday freed a construction worker trapped for more than five hours in a trench at a home construction site along La Jolla Shores, fire authorities said.

The call for help came in just before 8 a.m., San Diego Fire-Rescue spokesperson Monica Muñoz said. Crews arrived to find the man stuck from the waist down in the trench near El Paseo Grande.

Just before 1:30 p.m., the agency tweeted video of crews hoisting the man from the trench, with the message: “SAFE!” and said the man was receiving medical attention.

Afterward, Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Brian Raines told reporters, including OnScene TV, that the 62-year-old victim was awake and alert during the five-and-a-half-hour rescue, and that helped with the rescue efforts.

“We knew he didn’t have life-threatening injuries, which gave us more time to be able to do it technically, do it safely,” he said.

Raines said the initial evaluation at the scene indicated he had fractured his arm, and he was taken to a hospital to be evaluated for injuries related to being crushed.

Raines said the rescue was complicated because a heavy piece of concrete from the home’s foundation had pinned the man to the wall. Breaking the concrete was not an option because rescuers were not sure if or how it might shift inside the trench.

Raines said the rescue required setting up a tripod to hoist the man out of the trench. Crews also used airbags and multiple rope systems to prevent the trench from collapsing. The rescue was a “very coordinated effort,” Raines said.

“That’s part of the reason why it took five and a half hours, to make sure all that was coordinated without causing further injury,” he explained.

NBC San Diego reported late Wednesday morning — when the man was still trapped — that his legs were folded backwards under a large concrete beam and dirt that collapsed had around him. The station said he’d been given IV fluids and pain medication.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Erik Windsor told the station the rescue was one of the more technical and serious rescues the department will do this year.

“It is a very dynamic situation,” Windsor said. “Everything we do causes one reaction or another.”

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

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