CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A dramatic rescue unfolded Monday in Chesterfield Township as emergency crews rushed to save two construction workers who got trapped in a collapsed trench.
The construction workers were shoring up the foundation of a new home near the sea wall when the wall of the trench collapsed, leaving them buried waist-deep in clay and dirt.
The incident happened before 4 p.m. Monday near Jefferson and Hall roads.
Men trapped feet below surface level
Chesterfield Township's fire chief said the two men were trapped as if there was a tourniquet around their waists. They couldn't move, and they had limited blood flow as the pressure of the dirt weighed down on them.
The two men were conscious and alert during the rescue, which lasted three hours.
"I heard screaming," resident Stanley Zabicki said. "I walked out in the front and I'm listening and I hear, 'Help, help.'"
When the workers became trapped in the trench, they were about 8 feet below surface level.
"We saw these guys in the hole," Zabicki said. "They were getting buried. They looked like they were in pain. They were being crushed."
The men had hundreds of pounds of clay bearing down on them.
"Had these guys been a little deeper, where it was around their chest, they would not have survived because they wouldn't have been able to breathe," Chesterfield Township Fire Chief Doug Charbonneau said. "The minute you're encapsulated with dirt, you exhale, your chest collapses can't refill your lungs and you're done."
Workers saved after long rescue effort
The Macomb County Technical Rescue team raced to the scene.
"With the water-saturated ground, it could've caved in further on them before we could effectively rescue," Charbonneau said.
About 60 firefighters and medical officials tried shoring up the sides of the trench with boards and hydraulic jacks.
"There were guys trying to dig in the hold with small shovels to get dirt away from the guys," Charbonneau said.
After two-and-a-half hours, the first man was pulled out of the trench and put on a stretcher. About 30 minutes later, the second man was rescued.
"You heard the crowd cheering," Charbonneau said. "Our guys themselves feel like cheering when they get a good save like that. The one chief told them, 'We had two good saves today. Good job.' And that's the bottom line, is the save."
The men are expected to make a full recovery. Officials said the men weren't contractors, but friends of the property owner. They didn't have a trench box, and the particle boards weren't strong enough.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating and will look at the site Tuesday.