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‘Not your textbook rescue’: Chief recounts freeing worker from collapsed Riverton trench

Local News

RIVERTON, Utah (ABC4) – In late February, a worker became trapped in a trench after it collapsed in Riverton.

Friday is the first day back to work for the 50 plus member crew who saved the man from the trench after their standard four days off. The call still weighs heavy on their minds.

“It was an emotionally draining call,” Chief Ross Fowlks tells ABC4.

Chief Fowlks says the man was trapped inside the collapsed trench for more than four hours before crews could save him.  

“My thought when he got to the top is “I am glad he is out, let’s get him checked out and see where things are,'” Chief Fowlks explains.

But Chief Fowlks says the construction worker had his own priorities.

“He just kept pushing me away,” Chief Fowlks says. “He went over and leaned up against one of those pumps, took off his boots, and took the gravel out of his boots – that was his main concern.”

Crews faced several challenges when saving the man, who officials say was using the proper equipment.

“The overhang that was still above him, the hazards we had around, and the communication we had that we couldn’t shut off due to water diversion,” Chief Fowlks says.

He says the trench collapse was a “freak accident” unlike one he has ever seen before.

“The ones we have had locally have not had a good outcome,” Chief Fowlks tells ABC4. “This one is when you are faced with the impending collapse of further material you have the patient out there and you have to get him out.”

This rescue is one he says can be learned from.

“This was not textbook rescue, this was taking the textbook and pulling it apart and finding the pieces that work for this rescue,” Chief Fowlks says.

At last check, the man was in good condition.

Chief Fowlks says that although the team did everything correctly, this rescue is prompting training on how to handle a potential future similar rescue.

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