Pa. Firefighters Pull Man From Trench


Emergency responders pulled a man out of a trench that police said collapsed on him Friday afternoon in Baldwin Borough.

Channel 4 Action News' Ashlie Hardway reported that the man was waist-deep in dirt and mud in the yard of a house on Sagebrush Drive, unable to move for about two hours.

Sky 4 flew over the scene, where firefighters, police and people wearing hard hats were gathered around a hole in the ground that was surrounded by dirt and rubble.

Rescue crews load Brian Cahill into an ambulance

The man -- identified as 48-year-old Brian Cahill -- was eventually strapped onto a board and pulled above ground to safety. He was loaded into an ambulance and rushed to a hospital.

"He was in pain -- leg pain, some chest pain, a little anxious just because he was claustrophobic in the hole. He was about 8 feet down, so he wanted out of the hole, basically," said Lt. Martin Mayer, of Baldwin EMS.

Alvin Henderson, assistant chief for Allegheny County Emergency Services, said crush syndrome was a concern because it can set in almost immediately as the weight of the dirt cuts off circulation to the legs and lower extremities.

"When you're working in a trench like that, there is a huge concern that we have with the stability of the trench walls that any time you start having a primary and then a secondary collapse of the trench walls, those walls can collapse at any time," said Henderson.

Fluids were given to the man as a precaution while he was stuck, Henderson said.

Police Chief Michael Scott said the man is one of five people who were digging a trench in the back yard of the home. They are not professionals and were doing work to help the homeowner, Scott said.

Hardway reported that Cahill was working to install a French drain when the walls came down on a trench that was 6 feet deep and 4 feet wide, trapping him at chest level.

His friends worked to dig him free until rescue crews arrived.

"It's a hand operation to dig around the patient, to try and get all the dirt removed from the patient and then safely and efficiently get him packaged up into a Stokes basket and then pulled up from that area," said Henderson.

OSHA investigators were also investigating the accident and have regulations that all trench work must have a trench box or shoring walls to guard against accidents.

OSHA has not said if the men, who are not professional contractors, will be fined.

Copyright 2010 by ThePittsburghChannel. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.