Construction worker injured in NC Central University trench collapse

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The rescue operation under-way (Durham Fire Department Twitter feed)

A construction worker was injured when his legs were pinned by a fallen piece of concrete after a trench collapsed in Durham on June 10.

Firefighters responded to the construction accident at O’Kelly–Riddick Stadium on the NC Central University Campus about 10:30 a.m., Deputy Fire Chief Chris Iannuzzi told the News & Observer. It took about an hour to free the worker, who was taken to Duke University Hospital, he said.

“What we know at this time was that gentleman was working in a ditch and the ditch collapsed,” Casey Jones of Corvias said. “A piece of concrete fell on his leg. He was taken to the hospital with injuries. We don’t know what those injuries are at this time.

Iannuzzi said that when the first firefighters arrived and assessed the situation, they requested backup from the Fire Department’s Tactical Rescue Team. He said the worker’s legs were also covered and trapped by soil that had fallen into the trench.

All construction activity was halted within 500 feet to prevent vibrations from causing additional collapses in the trench, Durham Fire Chief Rob Zoldos told the newspaper.

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Durham Fire Department rescuers at the scene

“Trench rescue offer many challenges,” Zoldos said. “We don’t want to make it any worse for the patient while we’re working.”

Firefighters shored up the trench before digging the worker out with small hand shovel and entrenching tools, he said.

“As for what we did, it went really well,” Zoldols said. “It was relatively fast for a trench rescue.”

The incident happened not far from a new campus residence hall.

The residence hall is one of three major campus building projects underway, NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Herandez said.

Investigators from OSHA were on the scene to begin their inquiry before emergency personnel left, Iannuzzi said.

Construction is among the most dangerous industries in North Carolina. In 2017, 36 private-sector construction workers died in work-related incidents, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Excavating and trenching “are among the most hazardous construction operations,” according to the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration. “Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities,” the administration says on its website.

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