Worker hospitalized after being buried for more than two hours

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters carry Danny Russu, 21, an Apollo Excavation employee, toward an ambulance after rescuing him from a sewer line trench.What started out as repair of a broken sewer line at a Cedar Hills home turned into a life-and-death situation for Apollo Excavating employees on Monday morning when a narrow, 14-foot-deep trench surrounding the pipe collapsed and buried one worker up to his head under layers of mud and dirt for more than two hours.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews pulled the trapped worker from the narrow trench in the front yard of 12715 S.W. Bowmont St. around 2:30 p.m.

Danny Russu, 21, was transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland. His medical condition was upgraded from serious to fair, a Legacy spokeswoman said on Wednesday afternoon.

Two of the man’s co-workers at Apollo Drain and Rooter Service, who were also in the trench but escaped during the collapse, were not hospitalized.

Gebbie Leonard, who hired the Gresham-based business to repair a broken sewer line leading from his house to the main pipe under Bowmont Street, was home when one of the Apollo crew approached the house and asked him to call 911.

“I ran back in the house, grabbed the phone and called for help,” Leonard TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Emergency personnel from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and Portland Fire & Rescue monitor the condition of a man trapped in a trench 12 feet below the surface.

Firefighters from TVF&R’s Beaverton Station 61 were the first to arrive on the scene at 11:04 a.m, said agency spokesman Chris Hamilton. TVF&R and Portland Fire & Rescue’s technical rescue teams responded with trucks and an array of equipment. Clean Water Services and the cities of Beaverton and Portland provided vacuum trucks to remove earth from the trench, and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office assisted with traffic control.

Two firefighter-paramedics entered the trench to administer medical care to Russu, uncovering the trapped man’s face to help him breathe, while providing heated air and an intravenous liquid feed. The victim was alert and communicative, Hamilton said. The dirt covering Russu was estimated to weigh several hundred pounds.

Throughout the rescue effort, Dr. Raymond Moreno, medical director for TVF&R and Metro West Ambulance, directed the patient’s care at the scene and remained in contact with a Legacy Emanuel Medical Center trauma team.

Rescuers stabilized the collapsed trench with additional shoring, moving dirt by hand that was vacuumed out of the crevice.

“There were (wire) cages on the side of the trench for protection,” Leonard said, indicating dirt beneath the caged area likely gave way. “I don’t know what happened. It must’ve been wetter than it looked.”

When rescuers dug down deep enough, they discovered Russu positioned horizontally with both legs trapped in the dirt. With Portland Fire & Rescue’s support, TVF&R rescuers extricated the worker from the trench at 2:30 p.m. and helped him to an ambulance. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter Donavan Rodriguez climbs down a ladder to help rescue Danny Russu.

The Apollo crew started on the pipe repair early last week, but on Friday discovered the trench would have to be enlarged.

“They said they’d have to do it on Monday,” Leonard said.

Monday’s rescue effort was an example of intergovernmental mutual-aid agreements in action, Hamilton noted. The agreements help ensure that those experiencing an emergency get necessary resources quickly, regardless of where they are.

“In addition to TVF&R’s front-line and professional fire crews, we have also invested in specialty teams such as Technical Rescue whose specialized skills and equipment can be used for structural collapses, confined space rescues and high-angle rescues,” Hamilton said. “They train weekly on complicated scenarios and participate with other agencies as part of an urban search and rescue unit.”

Tom Houghton was one of several neighbors who gathered outside their homes to view the unfolding scene, which included more than a dozen emergency vehicles with flashing lights, television news crews and a hovering helicopter.

“I was talking to my daughter on the phone around 11:15,” he said. “I heard a siren, then another and another. I told her, ‘I better go now.’”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters excavate dirt to provide more room to help rescue a man trapped in a trench. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters carry Danny Russu, 21, an Apollo Excavation employee, toward an ambulance after rescuing him from a sewer line trench. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Workers hold up a sheet to block the view of Apollo Excavation worker Danny Russu as crews place him in an ambulance. Crews rescued him from a trench on Monday.
by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighters Kyle Leonard and Donavan Rodriguez embrace after helping in the successful effort to rescue trapped excavation worker Danny Russu from a 12-foot deep trench.

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