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    Default Hole collapses, trapping 2 workers

    Hole collapses, trapping 2 workers
    By Will Greenlee staff writer
    August 8, 2003

    PORT ST. LUCIE Rescuers used specialized pneumatic struts to free two workers trapped Thursday when the sides of a roughly six-foot deep hole collapsed.

    The high-drama incident at Catalina Terrace and Alberca Lane happened shortly before 11:30 a.m. as a Felix Equities worker connected two sewer pipes.

    "The victim that was in the hole was on his knees, putting the last bolt (in) and the side caved in and it collapsed over his legs, about mid-thigh down his legs were completely trapped," said Capt. Jim Parent of the St. Lucie County Fire District.

    "The foreman . . . went down in the hole to help him out and hold him up and he ended up getting stuck in there also."

    The hole started as 3- to 4-feet wide and 5- to 6-feet deep, but increased to 8-feet wide following the collapse, Parent said.

    The names of the workers were unavailable Thursday.

    Felix is under contract with Port St. Lucie to expand the city's water and sewer network in that area, said Donna Rhoden, public information manager for the city's utilities department.

    Water was pumped from the hole and air circulated in as workers braced the sides of the hole with pneumatic struts that expand with air pressure. A fire truck ladder extended over the hole, with a rope hanging from the end to secure one of the workers. The foreman apparently was freed from the hole first.

    Both men were freed by about 12:45 p.m.

    Parent said the collapse might be attributed to water and moisture in the area and that the men were mired from the mid-thigh down when emergency crews arrived. The average trench rescue, he said, takes about four hours.

    "There was still a very good chance of this one side coming over it was already breaking loose and coming in so we had to put our shore boards up to keep the sides from coming in," he said, noting a backhoe was on hand just in case.

    "We shored the sides up real good and from there we go in and we just got to dig by hand."

    He said when the water mixes with the soil it acts like a "suction cup."

    "You're looking at probably an average of 100 pounds per cubic foot of dirt and if you're from the mid-thigh down, you're looking at 500, 800 pounds of weight on your legs and there's no way you can pull yourself out of that with the suction added to it," Parent said.

    A pump truck sucked water from the hole, easing the rescuers' job. "Without that you're digging, and as you're digging the stuff's falling in just as fast as you're digging," Parent said.

    - will.greenlee@scripps.com

    This article was put up solely for information purposes.
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    Ladders dont put out fires... water puts out fires... engines companies rule.

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