1. #1
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    Default Close Call--Man Dies in Trench Collapse as Firefighters Work to Free Him

    This is a tragic story, but it sounds like we were lucky not to have more casualties.

    From the Toronto Star

    Rescuers watch buried man go under


    STEVE KRAVITZ AND CURTIS RUSH
    STAFF REPORTERS

    A Richmond Hill man was buried alive in his front yard despite frantic rescue attempts from ambulance and fire crews last night and into the early morning.
    Lorenzo Pilagatti, 40, was digging a trench about 3.7 metres (12 feet) deep in front of his home on Elgin Mills Rd., west of Yonge St., with a small bulldozer in a bid to hook up to the town sewers.

    He got out and went into the ditch to work by hand when the walls caved in on him at about 8:30 p.m.

    Pilagatti was buried up to his neck when rescue crews arrived to help dig him out. However, at 1 a.m. this morning, the walls gave in again and completely buried him.

    "Itís such a tragedy," said York Regional police constable Kim Killby.

    "They were communicating with him and everything appeared to going okay and all of sudden it just happened all over again."

    By the time of the second collapse, Killby said rescuers had dug several feet of mud away from Pilagatti. "They were thinking they were probably pretty close to saving him," she said

    "Itís just an awful, awful thing for them, to have spent this amount of time trying to save his life and watch this happen before their eyes."

    Killby did not know what measures Pilagatti took to brace up the sides of the trench - if any - and could not comment on steps taken by rescuers to prevent the second collapse.

    Killby was unsure what caused the collapse, but said the wet, snowy weather may have contributed.

    "It was a miserable night," she said.

    To recover his body, emergency crews finally had to use a backhoe to dig a wide hole around the cave-in.

    Rescue crews freed the body at 8:45 a.m. this morning.

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    Default

    That is just aweful. I can't imagine that.
    I'm not going to "Moday Morning Quarterback" either.

    Keep your head down and your powder dry.
    ________________________
    Lt.Jason Knecht
    Altoona Fire Rescue
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    I will monday morning QB.
    What steps did the FD do to shore the trench?
    If the soil can be shored it is at worst C60 soil. And if shored properly it wouldn't have had a secondary collapse.
    4 1/2 hours later and the trench collapsed. That should have been enough time to getysome shoring in place.
    If they were in the US, on top of witnessing a horrific incident, the IC would be looking at civil and criminal penalties.
    I may sound a bit harsh but trench incidents are somewhat black and white. You arrive, call for help, shore the trench (or make it safe, shield, cut back) and dig the pt out. Dead or alive the pt comes out, and all the rescuers go home alive and safe.

    Every trench will have a secondary collapse, given enough time. Also it will continue to collapse till it reaches its angle of repose. As responders we have to follow the OSHA regs or certified tabluated data like http://www.airshore.com/fire_rescue/...ngineering.htm

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    Default Follow-up Article

    A follow up article is attached. I'm not going to second guess anyone, because I have no trench rescue training. I definitely states they shored up the trench, but it did not hold.

    From the Toronto Star:


    Trench collapse kills father
    Dies moments from rescue
    Family, firefighters devastated

    LESLIE FERENC
    STAFF REPORTER

    Horrified firefighters watched helplessly as the Richmond Hill father they'd desperately struggled to pull from a deep muddy trench suddenly disappeared under an avalanche of muck and was buried alive early yesterday.

    Lorenzo Pilagatti, 40, was just seconds from rescue, close to the tidy Elgin Mills Rd. W. home where his wife and two young daughters were watching the frantic rescue efforts, when the trench he'd been digging collapsed the second time.

    By the time rescuers reached him, he was dead. His body was finally pulled out at 9 a.m.

    The rescue bid had begun at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, after Pilagatti became trapped up to his chest as the walls of the 3.6-metre hole he was digging with a backhoe ó it's unclear why ó collapsed.

    One firefighter described the mud as being "like quicksand." At about 1 a.m. the ooze collapsed again, this time completely covering Pilagatti.

    "Firefighters were in the process of digging him out, and they were positive they could get him out," Richmond Hill fire Chief Shane Baker said yesterday after Pilagatti's body was recovered. "It was a delicate, dangerous process. It took five hours, but firefighters actually got down to his shins. They were so close," the chief said.

    At the time, Pilagatti "was conscious and totally coherent," Baker said.

    They dug down to below his knees and tried to pull him out, but he told them his feet were caught on something, the chief said. "So firefighters dug deeper and found a shovel (lying) over his feet," he continued. "They pulled it out with a rope and tried to pull him up ... but he still didn't budge. One captain said it was like he was stuck in concrete."

    Baker said emergency crews who'd been monitoring conditions in the hole from above suddenly noticed "the earth moving" and immediately ordered firefighters out of the pit.

    Seconds later, Pilagatti, still stuck inside, was buried.

    "If they hadn't been called out when they were, we would have lost firefighters," the chief said.

    The 14 platoon members who had worked through the night to rescue the man were devastated, the chief said. "They're far too emotional to talk to the media. They're very, very upset."

    The platoon was to meet last night for a critical-incident debriefing, which Baker described as a "therapeutic process."

    According to Baker, there was no shoring in the trench when firefighters arrived.

    "It was a difficult situation," he said. Snow, mud, and cramped conditions in the narrow trench made the rescue effort even more treacherous.

    The firefighters laid a ladder across the hole and tied a rope to it, dropping it in. Pilagatti was able to free his arms and secure the rope under them.

    "We tied him to the ladder so he couldn't slip further down," Baker explained. Firefighters were also secured to ropes in the event they lost their footing and plunged deeper into the mud. As they dug, rescue workers shored up the walls with wood.

    "Firefighters put their lives at risk ó they were right down in the trench," Baker said. "It was a very risky and dangerous rescue. You never know what can happen in a rescue situation like this."

    A backup crew was called in about 11:30 p.m., bringing nine more rescuers, heaters and extra plywood and lumber to stabilize the hole. The fire department doesn't have the steel boxes used in the construction industry to shore up earthen walls, nor the equipment to transport them.

    An autopsy is to be done today. It's not known whether an inquest will be held.

    Neighbours like Mike Messere stood in front of the house in shocked silence yesterday. "I feel so bad for the family," Messere said, adding that Pilagatti loved to work on his home.

    "He spent a lot of time renovating and making the house look nice," he said, pointing to the off-white home with its dormers, little porch and black shutters. "Lorenzo was a very hard-working guy. This is a real tragedy."

    He said he heard a loud cracking noise about 1 a.m., which he believes was the sound of the wooden shoring snapping.

    Counsellors went to Father Henri Nouwen Catholic school, where Pilagatti's 8- and 11-year-old daughters attend, to speak with their classmates.

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    Sounds as if they were the victims of a build up of hydrostatic pressure behind the shores as a result of either snow melt or rainfall. Wet earth is significantly heavier than dry soil and the moisture "lubricates" the soil particles so that they don't interlock. As a result, the pressure on the shoring increases and can result in shoring failure. They were fortunate in a way that they were using wood shoring. Wood tends to make noises and move before it fails. This gives you some time to get out of a bad situation. My heart goes out to the victim and the rescuers. It's very traumatic to have someone you have worked so hard to save die in front of you....
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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    Default More to the Story

    CJ you are correct, we have had a lot of rain in the Toronto Area during the past week, and the ground is saturated with water. As you can see from the article below, the victim's family are upset and are questioning the rescue effort. I do not know what training the Richmond Hill Fire Dept has for trench rescue, but there was an item on the news last night that said the Toronto Fire Service has a fully equipped Heavy Urban Search & Rescue Team which could have responded within an hour and a half, but they were never called. The City of Vaughan Fire Dept was called to assist at the scene. There will likely be a coroner's inquest into this death.

    From the Toronto Sun:
    Kin felt helpless

    Saw brother buried alive as rescue failed

    By KIM BRADLEY, TORONTO SUN

    A man who watched his brother die after he was buried alive in Richmond Hill is furious with the failed rescue efforts and is demanding answers. "If plan A doesn't work after five hours, you go to plan B," said Nino Pilagatti.

    "But they didn't have a plan B. They just kept doing the same things over and over again and it didn't work."

    Pilagatti said he got a phone call from a friend at 9:45 p.m. Monday telling him about the desperate rescue efforts going on outside his brother's Elgin Mills Rd. home.

    He raced from Scarborough to Richmond Hill only to find that Lorenzo, his brother, had been buried in a three-metre-deep trench he had been digging with a backhoe in his front yard.

    It collapsed in on him, covering him almost completely in dirt, around 8:30 p.m.

    HELPLESS

    Pilagatti helplessly watched as Richmond Hill and Vaughan firefighters attempted, without success, to pull Lorenzo from the mucky earth. They used a rope to try to pull him free several times, but everything failed and a final collapse at 1 a.m. killed the 40-year-old father of two.

    "The rope was frayed to begin with and it was cutting him like fishing line. It was so frustrating to watch them try the same thing over and over again," Pilagatti said, adding it appeared to him that the firefighters didn't have the proper equipment or training for that kind of rescue.

    He can't understand why they didn't call in rescue crews from another municipality, like Toronto, with specialized training to help when they realized their efforts were failing.

    "I wanted to say something but I thought they were the professionals and I thought they knew what they were doing. That's what's eating at me is that I didn't say anything."

    All that Pilagatti, Lorenzo's wife and his two daughters, aged 11 and eight, could do was watch. They never dreamed it would end tragically.

    "I thought they'd get him out, everyone would clap and I could give him a backhand," he said.

    "Five hours I was out there and I was numb, never mind being stuck in that (water and dirt). He suffered for five hours in those conditions," Pilagatti said through tears.

    Pilagatti and his family say they would like a public inquest into Lorenzo's death so they can get the answers they need, and to hopefully prevent similar deaths in the region.

    Friends of Lorenzo's sister have set up a trust fund in his name at the CIBC in Newmarket where she works. Donations can be made to the fund through the CIBC, Davis Dr. and Harry Walker Parkway branch.

    Richmond Hill fire department would not comment.

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    I await further info on this incident as I feel it could have some interesting points coming out of it for all involved in trench rescue....

    I also feel for the crews invovled- what a huge effort and to have it end this way.
    Luke

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    Correct me if I"m wrong Ralph, but I believe in order to mobilize the HUBAR team, the request must come from the Community Emergency Management Coordinator through EMO. They were set up to be a travelling resource, but only in event of a larger scale problem. Unless Richmond Hill has a mutual aid agreement with Toronto I don't think it would be possible to mobilize them in these circumstances tragic as they are.

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    oooooops, my mistake, that would be the CBRN team

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    Default Mutual Aid

    Lady Capn--I do not know the procedure for requesting the HUSAR Team, and I do not know if Toronto would respond to Richmond Hill, although Toronto regularly responds to calls on their border with Markham and Vaughan. On the news last night (CFTO) they showed the HUSAR Teams equipment and the Captain they interviewed said they would have been able to respond to the scene within 1.5 hours of the call, so obviously they would go if they were requested. I don't know if Richmond Hill was aware that this team was equipped for trench rescue, I thought they were only for collapsed buildings.

    There was mention on one of the other TV stations on the morning after the accident, that Richmond Hill had attempted to contact some construction companies to get equipment, but because it was afterhours they could not contact anyone.

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    This is a very unfortunate incident and I am relieved to see that no fire service members were killed also.
    Any technical rescue incident should not be attempted unless the members are properly trained and equiped. This is an example of this.
    To shore this trench with wood you would need a whale system with the whales being 12 X 12" with close sheeting and cross braces of 8 X wood all mixed oak or douglas fir. No plywood. If they could get that wood I could see why it took as long as it did. But that size wood is not available at a moments notice and is very expensive. Hydraulic or air would be more cost efficient and a much better choice.

    A cubic foot of soil is about 100 lbs, with a lot of water it could be as high as 145 (lets say 150 lbs) so a 12 foot trench has 1,800 lbs of vertical pressure acting on it at the bottom of the trench and about 900 lbs of lateral pressure on it. You need significant timber to maintain a 2:1 safety factor. I'd put money on the fact that Richmond Hill and Vaughan didn't have the proper equipment for the job. Shoring will stop a wall from moving, it can't withstand the force from moving dirt. If the timbers were too small and not put in correctly it would fail.

    It is very unfortunate that this incident caught these departments with their pants down. "firefighters attempted, without success, to pull Lorenzo from the mucky earth. They used a rope to try to pull him free several times" A victim must be uncovered 100% prior to taking the pt out. Even a foot under the dirt can stop you from freeing the pt. It is one of the first things you learn.

    I feel for the guys and the victim's family. This should be a wake up call for the rest of us. Get training, get equipment or know who has it. Follow the rules to the letter. Don't let this happen to your department

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    Knowing who has the equipment and training is vital. To that end we are trying to develop a state wide resource data base for Maryland so that an incident commander can quickly locate and request the proper resources for his incident.
    Chris Minick, P.E., Firefighter II
    Structures Specialist, MD-TF 1

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    Richmond Hill does not have confined space/trench rescue training. They apparently have a squad that goes into service sometime soon, that will have some training. Apparently the trench wasn't shored adequately, before or during rescue attempts. Sad for all parties involved.

    Boogs

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    Default Fire Chief Responds

    This is a very sad story, and I'm sure the rescuers did all they possibly could. Technical rescue (trench rescue or confined space rescue,ETC) is a very complicated thing, which requires a lot of training and practice, and it is very expensive, and it is for situations that rarely happen.
    ADSNWFLD or anyone else who might know, what would it cost to properly train and equip a trench rescue unit? Would you need a separate vehicle, or would you be able to squeeze the equipment onto the rescue truck? The cost would likely be out of reach for a lot of fire departments.

    As you can see from the article below, the Fire Chief is defending their efforts, and there is questions about whether or not the Toronto HUSAR team would have been able to respond. One thing that isn't being mentioned is that the whole incident was the result of the victim performing an unsafe act with no safety precautions.

    From the Toronto Sun

    'They did all they could'

    Fire chief responds to rescue effort critics

    By JACK BOLAND, TORONTO SUN

    Richmond Hill firefighters are devastated by criticism levelled after they tried in vain to rescue a father of two from an excavated trench which caved in on his front lawn. Shane Baker, Richmond Hill's fire chief, responded yesterday to criticism levelled at members of his department by Nino Pilagatti, the brother of Lorenzo, 40, who was buried in the trench earlier this week.

    One criticism has been that the Toronto Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) should have been called in to assist in saving the man.

    "We are upset by the brother's comments because they (firefighters) did everything they could possibly do," said Baker, who said his crews worked in cramped quarters to extricate the man from a 36-inch wide makeshift trench he'd dug out with a Bobcat in an effort to hook up his house to the town's sewage system.

    At about 8:30 p.m. Monday night the trench caved in, trapping the 40-year-old unemployed construction worker up to his chest in mud and water.

    "He'd used a Bobcat to make a makeshift hole that looked like an igloo. It was described to me by a (fire) captain as being concave," said Baker.

    "The earth had given way and even a part of the driveway had to be shored up because it was hanging over him. He was wedged up against the sanitary sewer."

    Richmond Hill firefighters called in a Vaughan fire crew, a Richmond Hill department of works backhoe and even Bell Canada to help during the 4 1/2-hour ordeal at the victim's Elgin Mills Rd. home.

    At one point, firefighters thought they had almost rescued Pilagatti from the mire when things went horribly awry, for a second time, burying him alive.

    The dead man's brother was dumbfounded as to why Toronto's specialized training team wasn't called in to help.

    "We knew about the HUSAR team, but the situation didn't meet the criteria to get them to come up (and help us)," said Baker, who talked yesterday with Toronto fire chief Bill Stewart and said he was "disappointed at comments made by some of its members" in light of the tragic situation.

    The Pilagatti family, which has asked that a inquest be called, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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    ADSNWFLD or anyone else who might know, what would it cost to properly train and equip a trench rescue unit?

    We're in the end stages of start-up of a regional tech rescue task force.

    $265,000 bought:
    3 Trailers equipped with confined space equipment (tripods, harnesses, escape-paks, supplied air systems, etc), ropes & rigging, airpacks, radios. Trailers deployed at three different departments that make the core of the task force. These are in-service now.

    Trailer setups included 8 Scott Air-Pak 50s with air line pigtails & 8 portables each -- so a big amount of $$ went to those alone. We carry the airpacks & radios on the Rescue that tows the trailer, so they're also available for routine firefighting, etc.

    1 Trailer with wood, plywood, and airshores. (We host this too since we had the most room -- trailer should be outfitted by the end of January). A 12 shore "Intermediate" airshore kit will run about $10k (American $ ). I'm not heavily trained or experienced in trench rescue, but I'd figure that's adequate for one man in a typical trench. Anything more, you'll probably need more.

    Confined Space Rescue & Trench Rescue classes from State Fire Academy

    PPE for team members including plain old fashion jumpsuit, steel toed workboots, safety glasses, helmets, and Mechanix gloves.

    A two-burner coffee maker & two TVs w/ VCR

    A bigger ego for the Chief.

    ----------------------------

    My guess, if you were just buying equipment solely for trench rescue, a basic amount of equipment, trailer, training, ppe would be about $35-50k.

    A well equipped team would probably run $75-85k, adding in more airshores (plus sheeting), some low-pressure air bags to fill large voids behind sheeting, and more "niceties" left off the basic team.

    Our regional task force was funded by a FIRE Act. This is something that would've been difficult to finance locally, especially as one consolidated purchase, and especially considering the three fire departments leading it are all funded by seperate bodies (one town, two fire districts). With the Tech Rescue equipment, sometimes a little bit isn't enough -- that's part of what got the ball rolling, we had some equipment, they had some equipment, those guys had some equipment, put it all together you might almost have something. We still don't have "advance" capabilities, but we have enough training & equipment to handle safely a fairly straight-forward rescue and hopefully enough recognition to realize when we're outmatched.

    My personal biggest concern is this is a capability that'll only be used once every ten years or so in our area. Yes, it's important to have it, but I wonder long term if enough people will stick with it and/or rotate into the team to keep up the quarterly drills and occassional weekend-long classes for skills that if you miss an activation, it might be the only chance you have in twenty years to get your hands dirty at an actual incident. Only time will answer that question.

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    Unless Richmond Hill has a mutual aid agreement with Toronto I don't think it would be possible to mobilize them
    What a load of crap!

    You shouldn't need some form of agreement to activate for assistance!

    Not knowing the background to your mutual aid agreement process, but I would have thought if you need help, you call it! Who gives a **** where it comes from, or for that matter, what service it comes from. If this is the spin off and outcome from an "us versus them" type of problem between areas and departments in getting mutual aid, then GGGRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Again, I wasn't at the call, but the sign of a good leader is to know your team's limitations and to know when to ask for help and who to ask for help from....
    Luke

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    Smile Monday Morning Quarterbacking - NOT!

    Several posters have used the term "Monday Morning Quarterbacking" yet I don't see anything here that I'd classify as such. You folks have exchanged thoughts, opinions, advice, and ideas. This is how we work to make our operations safer. I have been in Collapse Rescue since back... er...ah.... I can't remember. I'm also an Instructor, and I'm one of a small group of people in America's Fire services, one who has made more than one successful trench rescue. Our team is a mix of Career and Volunteer Firefighters who operate a County wide team. We have had several live saves over the years, something we are all proud of. Several points that were made earlier bear a second look. First, Cost. One of the BIG reasons that we have one team for the whole County is Cost, Tools, Specialized Equipment, Transport vehicles, Training, all cost big bucks. By taking a broader approach, we make the operation cost effective. Another thing is Materials. One post above referred to 8X8 timbers and other heavy sheeting, while expressing a distaste for plywood in the hole. Plywood ground pads are used around the trench lip, to spread the Rescuers weight. There is also a plywood product to be used IN the hole, a composite of Alaskan wood types, with about 16 individual laminates. This plywood is used as an upright panel and carries all appropriate certifications. We routinely use these sheets with AirShores. Never use "Over the Counter" plywood from the local home improvement store in the hole. Last, Training and retention of team members IS a major concern, for a lot of reasons, Few calls, Lots of Training hours, etc. A Proactive team will need to practice a lot of retention measures. Stay Safe....
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