'Lucky to be alive': Crews rescue worker trapped in collapsed trench for nearly 6 hours

By Sophia Beausoleil - Reporter, Cory McCord - Digital News Editor

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Almost six hours after a dirt trench collapsed on a utility worker, firefighter carefully worked to free the man from the hole, according to the Klein Volunteer Fire Department.

The collapse happened around 2:30 p.m. at 19059 Champion Forest Drive, in the Gleannloch Farms subdivision, officials said.

The man was pulled from the trench around 8:15 p.m.

VIDEO: Man rescued from collapsed trench on May 14, 2019

“He’s pretty lucky to be alive. That easily could have collapsed and that’s why we took our time because the wall behind him was very unstable; easily could have collapsed and fell down on top of him,” explained Mike Gosselin with the Klein Volunteer Fire Department.

Firefighters said the man used a backhoe to dig a hole in the parking lot of a strip center that backs up to a golf course.

“For some reason, and I don’t know why, he got down in that hole. We know now that was a mistake. The clay and the dirt inside that hole was very unstable. It didn’t take much for it to collapse,” said Gosselin. “Maybe he was searching for something  he may have struck down there, was looking for a pipe down there possibly, but that’s just an assumption.”

While trapped, the man's arms and head were above the dirt, officials said. He was able to talk with firefighters as they worked to free him, according to authorities.

“He’s been very good, not as hostile as I would be if I was sitting in that hole for six hours,” expressed Gosselin. “He’s doing well. He’s actually joking. He’s in a humorous mood, for now anyway.”

Firefighters said the complex conditions caused them to take their time, analyze, assess and then start working again. Rescue crews could be seen using buckets to remove dirt from around the utility worker.

“It was very complex, said Gosselin. He was underneath that parking lot. It was like a cavern; clay and dirt was all pilled on him. He’s basically buried in a cone as we tried to dig him out,” explained Gosselin. “What slowed him down at the very end was his foot. It was down at the very bottom of that cone and his foot had filled up with dirt and clay and he was literally stuck by his ankle. Little by little, piece by piece, they got that out.” 

Firefighters used a ladder to hoist up a pulley system.  Once they were ready, several firefighters pulled on a rope connected to the man who was harnessed, and he eventually emerged from underground.

“We were so happy for him and all the men and women did awesome,” said Jacoub Deek, a neighbor who lives nearby.  He said he and his daughter prayed for the man and we're glad the man was not seriously injured.

Several people watched for hours and clapped once firefighters rescued the worker.

The Klein Volunteer Fire Department said the man did have some pain and was taken to the hospital by Life Flight.  He is expected to be OK.

WATCH: Officials provide updates on man trapped in trench in Klein on May 14, 2019

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