(WJLA) – A construction worker had to be rescued in Falls Church Thursday night after the trench he was working in collapsed, trapping the man for about eight hours.
Crews were working on replacing a water line on Venice Street when the 15-foot trench the man was standing in collapsed and covered the man's feet in about 2 to 3 feet of dirt.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue was called to the scene around 3:30 p.m. A secondary collapse occurred not long after rescue workers arrived and further trapped the man in the trench, which was then about 20 feet below ground level, covering him in dirt and mud as high as his chest.
The workers had been at the property since Wednesday, working on the sewer and water lines. Just minutes after midnight, the man – who works for Acclaimed Services – was finally pulled to safety as concerned neighbors looked on.
The company’s owner tells ABC7 News that he only sustained a couple of broken ribs and is expected to make a full recovery.
Rescuers from the Virginia Task Force One installed a trench box in order to prevent a third collapse from occurring so that crews could safely dig the man out.
"They couldn't pull him out; there was just so much pressure around him," said nearby resident David Anderson. "Every time they would pull out some of the dirt...it kept coming back in."
The man was reportedly conscious for the entire rescue.
ABC7 spoke with the homeowner’s son, who says the trench was not properly shored up. But the company’s owner says the trench was wide enough that it didn’t require shoring up, adding that the crew blames the rain and not poor judgment for the accident.
Mike Paulson says he thought the job site and large pit looked dangerous a few days ago.
"I said, that's a pretty big hole. It should be shored up. That's pretty dangerous."
Determining who – if anyone – was at fault will now be up to OSHA officials. Late Friday, one of their investigators returned to the scene to take pictures.
The worker is in the hospital, reportedly in serious condition, but is expected to survive.