Worker Dies After Being Trapped Under Dirt

Thursday, July 29, 2010 |

On Thursday, July 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM, 10 Companies of Los Angeles Firefighters, 7 LAFD Rescue Ambulances, 3 Urban Search and Rescue Units, 1 Rehab Unit, 2 Battalion Chief Officer Command Teams, 2 Division Chief Officer Command Teams, 1 Dozer Team, 1 Utility Resource under the direction of Assistant Chief T. Manning responded to a TRENCH RESCUE at 602 N. Palisades Dr. in Pacific Palisades.

Firefighters responded to a three story below grade single family dwelling, where reports of a person buried under an unknown amount of dirt was trapped. As crews quickly assessed the scene, they discovered that an individual who later was described as a 24 year old male, had been working in an 8x8 11 ft trench. The worker who apparently was attempting to water proof the area, was the victim of an unexpected cave in, just prior to the 911 call.

All personnel worked diligently and swiftly to try and dig out the man, but the un-shored, large amounts of dirt and the depth hole proved to be extremely challenging. With an already heavy amount of resources and equipment on scene, a request was made to call in three LAFD USAR Teams in an effort to expedite the rescue operation. A crew had to breach a nearby retaining wall to try and gain access to the victim. Despite the prompt efforts of the Los Angeles Firefighters and Paramedics, the injured male succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

It took 86 fire personnel and rescuers a little over five hours to completely recover the body of the worker. CAL –OSHA will continue an investigation as to what caused the incident, but the exact time and manner of death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

Submitted by Devin Gales, Spokesman
Los Angeles Fire Department


Anonymous said...

What a waste of time & materials... correct me if I'm wrong... 86 personnel to recover 1 body, talk about alot of personnel standing around doing nothing, I doubt you will publish this, I'm furloughed and you have the resources of 86 men standing to dig out one body, forgive me...pray for him

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 8:08,

Though I did not write the missive above (I wasn't working that day and did not respond to the incident), kindly allow me to reply to your concerns.

First and foremost, we extend our sympathies regarding your furlough. There are many LAFD families in which someone is a municipal (especially State) worker experiencing aggressive furloughs, and the stress and strain are evident to us all.

Though the LAFD is not technically in a furlough, the Department's Modified Coverage Plan has placed daily strain upon your Fire Department responders across the city on a rotating basis, as they try to do more with less. Such is certainly a different type of pain than you are experiencing, but fiscal challenge is indeed effecting us all.

Looking at Devin's report or watching this incident on television, one can easily become transfixed on the numbers independent of the challenge.

When already on duty [emphasis added] Los Angeles Firefighters responded to this trench rescue, they had little idea what they would face. Once the situation became known, as did a genuine need for extended operations, the LAFD made certain there were adequate (also already on-the-clock) rescuers for constant and safe operations, as there are no 'time-outs'.

When you see a significant LAFD commitment to an incident, it's often best to halve the numbers for relatively short events (<1 hour) and the cut the numbers by 3 for extended events such as this five hour effort to determine the proper and effective "work/recovery ratio".

For safety and effectiveness, we always need to have (at a minimum) an equal number of trained and certified rescuers standing by to seamlessly relieve tired personnel during major confined space rescues or to effect an immediate rescue of responders should the unthinkable occur.

While Team 'A' is working, Team 'B' prepares personnel and additional equipment (air tanks, ropes and pulleys, medical equipment), studies the situation in detail and supports alternate plans, ready to dive into action in a moments notice.

In an hour long rescue, it might be something like 'A' 'B' 'A' working non-stop in 20 minute cycles. In such a situation, a 40 firefighter response is really the continual and tireless efforts of 20 persons working non-stop.

When an extended and physically demanding event such as this occurs, the 86 responders at scene over a 5+ hour time span are best considered no more than 28 continuous rescuers, as the aforementioned cycles and incident needs usually have a three-team rotation over the many hours to allow for rehabilitation, replenishment of fluids, incident briefings and of course, documentation.

While this incident seemed simple from the outside with 20/20 hindsight, we never know for certain - despite our best efforts, when a person might survive, or things will go sideways.

We also owe ourselves, every constituent and the family and friends of the victim the knowledge that *everything* humanly possible was done by their LAFD with available personnel and resources. It may sound unbelievable, but we try to treat every trapped victim as if they were our own family in need.

In closing...

The residents of Los Angeles deserve (and IMHO receive) the finest Fire Department emergency response in the nation.

That a seemingly large number of highly capable and already on-duty rescuers amassed at that location to assist your neighbor in need *at no incremental cost to the taxpayer* should bring you great pride. While you're certainly entitled to feel otherwise, we feel that any allegation of LAFD personnel "standing around doing nothing" is without merit.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Blaze Smith said...

Kudos to the 86 fire personnel and rescuers for doing their job well. It's better than not doing anything at all! It may be only a single body, but it matters a lot to his family and loved ones.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Brian for representing the men and women of the LAFD against people who have a hard time understanding what we do on a daily basis. I was one of the firefighters who was in the hole trying to effect a rescue of a unfortunate individual. Not only was it physically tyring but mentally demanding working in such a tight space with a deceased human just inches from yourself. Again thank you Brian and thank you to all 86 fire department personel who took part in the extrication of that unfortunate man.

Anonymous said...

once the words "buried under a unknown amount of dirt" was said it automatically should be a body recovery. sorry to say but a human buried up to the chest has very little chance of survival. to say that u need 2 other standby teams to rotate is a waste! its a body recovery, bring in the heavy equipment and do the operation safely. no one should go into that hole!! period. not worth the risk of putting bodies into a hole for a body recover. 86 personel is way over board! just like the fire u had today which it took something like 35 personelto put out a 5x5 storage unit! really i think one engine company can handle that.

LAFD Media and Public Relations said...

Anonymous 12:45,

We appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion - as indeed I shared mine. The overriding fact of course, is that neither of us were there!

As mentioned in another thread and emphasized above, there was no incremental cost to Los Angeles taxpayers for having such a cadre of trained personnel in rotation over 5 and one-half hours, and we can't think of another Department (including yours) that would not have mustered similar resources were it possible.

That much said, if you have a suggestion that can optimize our operations, we warmly welcome you to contact our In-Service Training Section at (213) 485-6087.

Again, thanks for taking the time to visit and share your viewpoint.

Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

P.S. The Chief of your Department is a personal friend. We welcome you to join him on his next visit south. Lunch is on me!

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