Rescuers free trapped foreman out of ditch after 3Ĺ hours in Parkland

By Jaime Hernandez
Staff Writer
Posted January 31 2004

PARKLAND -- A foreman checking on some work at a Parkland construction site Friday became stuck in a watery and muddy trench, forcing firefighters to battle rain and oil-slicked water for more than three hours to free him, officials said.

The rescue was the second time since late December that firefighters from several Broward County agencies have had to rescue a construction worker trapped in a trench.

John Wright, 52, of Miami, was in the ditch in the 6700 block of Nob Hill Road around 3 p.m. checking on his employees' work when water and mud began seeping in, Coral Springs Fire-Rescue firefighter Mike Moser said. Parkland police Wright's leg was trapped between some rocks.

Firefighters and technical rescue personnel from five Broward County agencies -- Coral Springs, Margate, Sunrise, Fort Lauderdale and the Broward Sheriff's Office -- assisted Parkland firefighters in the rescue. They found Wright in chest-high water, Moser said. Wright was given an oxygen mask while rescuers worked to free him.

He was freed just after 6 p.m. and taken to North Broward Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition.

More than 40 firefighters were on the scene, Moser said. He said oil from a large water pump and the rain made the rescue effort more difficult.

"The water was cold. It had a large amount of hydraulic oil," said Moser, who was one of the rescue divers. "The oil was causing the dive masks to slip off our faces, and oil got into our eyes and ears."

Andy Berkowitz, a member of the Sheriff's Office's Technical Rescue Team, was in the water for about an hour. He said all of the digging to free Wright's leg was done under water.

"We were concerned with hypothermia and crush syndrome," in which the weight from the mud and rock cuts off blood circulation in the victim and causes complications, he said.

Wright's company, Florida Sewer and Water, was laying sewer line in the site for a housing development, said Kyle Reinson, spokesman for WCI Communities, the site's developer.

Last month, firefighters from four agencies worked for more than three hours before freeing Ezekiel Hunt, of Miami, from a ditch at a Lauderdale Lakes construction site. Hunt also was working on laying sewer line when he got stuck in waist-high water and mud.

Staff writers Christy McKerney and Robert Nolin contributed to this report.

Jaime Hernandez can be reached at jahernandez@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4631.