Crews rescued a construction worker Tuesday who fell 25 feet into a trench at a property in the Kew Gardens section of Queens where there was a stop-work order in effect. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
The worker, just freed, muttered something about the massive media coverage, perhaps not realizing what a close call he had.
"What we're treating for is crush syndrome," said Greg Brady, a rescue medic with the New York City Fire Department. "Usually, what we're trying to combat is, it's called smiling death."
Medics gave the worker an IV and pain medication, trying to fight the chemical buildup in his muscles he wouldn't have known about that could reach his heart hours later.
The worker was pinned under the pressure of hundreds of pounds of mud. Every time rescuers thought they'd be able to pull him out, he kept sliding deeper in.
"He was facing forward, but his legs were going back under him," said Chief Richard Portello of the FDNY Rescue Battalion.
Firefighters got the call that the man was trapped in the 25-foot hole at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The victim's brother said he was working and tried to release a chain but was buried in dirt up to his chest.
The Department of Buildings said the crew was doing excavation work for a home that does not have a permit.
A stop-work order was issued when inspectors found workers had failed to install proper shoring that likely contributed to the collapse.
"At times, there was only one person that was able to get in there, and they were working almost upside down to dig him out," Portello said.
Firefighters had to secure a backhoe first that was about to fall in the ditch. Con Edison gave an assist, bringing in what are called vactor trucks, which are basically giant vacuums to suck out the dirt.
"We can dig by hand for a half hour and get two inches," Portello said. "We use the Con Ed vacuum truck, and in five minutes, we can be down a foot. So it's a tremendous asset for us that Con Ed is able to help us out."
The Department of Buildings and the Office of Emergency Management continue to investigate the incident.