EDINA, Minn. - A construction worker is recovering at home after rescuers pulled him out from under a large hunk of concrete at a home in Edina Wednesday morning.
The accident occurred shortly before 8 a.m. on a site at 16 Paddock Road in Edina.
Fire Chief Marty Scheerer tells KARE 11 that the man was working on the foundation of a house in the Rolling Green neighborhood when the soil gave way. The construction worker became trapped from the waist down by a large slab of concrete, likely waste left over from when crews poured the home's foundation. The boulder was estimated to be 5 feet long and 3 feet wide.
The city of Edina says Corrigan Custom Homes, based in Eden Prairie, was working on the home, underpinning the crawlspace to create an additional room in the basement.
Rescuers worked with caution due to concerns about a second slab of unstable concrete above the trapped worker. Scene coordinators worried that the second slab could be jarred loose and fall on the victim.
"(We are) using our resources and people faster than we can get them here. It is very back breaking work, literally, in a hole digging dirt by hand, using small shovels," said Chief Scheerer.
The man was trapped face-down in what rescuers describe as a small, confined space for about two and a half hours. He was conscious and stable, but doctors provided pain medication to cope with his injuries.
Scheerer estimated it would take at least two hours to free the man, and it took about half an hour more than that.
Images shot from SKY 11 show rescuers pulling the man from the trench and loading him into an ambulance that rushed him to Hennepin County Medical Center.
"The amount of weight on him, had it been his upper extremities or chest, he would not be able to breathe, he would not not survived," said Sheerer.
Scott Vadnais was the first firefighter on scene to rescue the man.
"I explained to him there was a process we do a lot of training for," referring to the Minnesota Task Force One, which trains in catastrophes like a trench or bridge collapse.
Vadnais says his team methodically set up air and lumber shoring to secure the soil in the hole before they proceeded, a protection that prevents collapse, and something the construction company didn't appear to have.
"Time is money for the construction workers, so they don't necessarily take all the safety precautions they need to. This is a classic example of, I am just going to jump in the hole and do a couple of quick scoops. This thing falls down, and it happens that fast," said Vadnais. "It takes a lot money to buy the equipment, and a lot of time to do that, and they did not do that."
The construction worker has since been released from the hospital. While he did not identify himself, the man did release a statement thanking Edina firefighters and everyone else involved in the rescue, saying "They did a top-notch job and made me comfortable throughout the rescue. They were absolutely professional."
Scheerer says 60 crew members rotated in and out due to rising temperatures and a dangerous heat index.
"This was a fast rescue, usually it will take upwards of 6 to 8 hours to get him out, and sometimes people can pass away while we are doing that, so this is a great outcome," said Vadnais.
OSHA inspectors were on site during the extrication and will continue investigating exactly what happened. OSHA spokeswoman Jenny O'Brien said the investigation could take up to six months. She could not confirm whether the construction company used shoring in this case, but said according to OSHA standards, shoring is required for trenches more than five feet deep.
OSHA says nationwide, two people die a month in trench collapses.
Corrigan Custom Homes did not return KARE 11's call or email by early Wednesday night.
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