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Worker rescued from collapsed excavation, Liverpool

Published: 20th March 2006

Just after 9.30 am on 18 March 2006 the NSW Fire Brigades’ rescue unit from Liverpool responded to a building site in Castlereagh St, Liverpool, where a 50 tonne section of earthen wall had collapsed into an excavated area, pinning a construction worker against a concrete slab 8 m below street level. The man was buried up to the waist in heavy clay and caged by vertical steel reinforcing bars. The Liverpool crew was supported by another crew from Cabramatta, making 12 firefighters committed to this incident. Ambulance and Police were already on the site, which had been cleared of all but essential personnel.

Recognising the potential for further collapse, firefighters assisted construction workers to shore up the wall with formwork boards and reinforcing timbers. Owing to the technical nature of the rescue and the associated risks, fire officers requested the attendance of the NSW Fire Brigades’ Urban Search and Rescue specialist unit to provide technical support.

Firefighters cut through the steel bars to get to the trapped man. They then cautiously dug around him using hand-tools while Ambulance paramedics provided medical treatment. To ease his pain, a harness was slipped over the man and then secured to a fire brigades’ ladder-truck at street level to take some of the weight off the lower half of his body.

Releasing the man’s feet proved to be the most difficult part of the operation as they were encased in heavy, wet clay. This created a strong suction effect.

Nonetheless, the rescuers persevered until the man was finally released, lifted on to a stretcher and conveyed to hospital by a waiting Ambulance. His ordeal lasted for four hours. He remained conscious throughout the operation as paramedics kept his condition stable.

The cause of the accident is being investigated by Workcover.