The call came in as a basic medical lift assist for EMS and on arrival we quickly identified that we had a trench rescue. Command established the rescue sector and they called for additional units from Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services special operations team.
A quick scene size-up identified that they had two victims trapped from a sidewall collapse in clay soil. The trapped people had dug out a trench down to the footings to repair a foundation. The trench was about 20 feet long, 5 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Witness stated that the female was in the trench when it collapsed and the male jumped in to assist. A secondary collapse pinned him against her. He was buried up to his waist and she was buried up to the top of her chest.
Tillsonburg has Paratech rescue struts that they had trained and used for vehicle rescue but did not have trench rescue components. IC and the Rescue Sector Officer decided to use the equipment that they had to move forward with the rescue. There was no other option. Command requested a trench rescue team, but in their area there are none available so they were advised that they were on their own. Immediately they made a plan to start removing soil, rescuers started with moving the soil pile back about 10 feet from the lip. Plywood was not immediately available, but a neighbor was able to provide some. Some ground pads were put down and used one sheet to shore the top 4 feet of the trench. Paratech struts and vehicle rescue pads were used to shore up the sides as they went. Tillsonburg had three struts and three bases and quickly used them to stabilize as they went down the first few feet.
Command requested assistance from two neighboring departments that were known to use Paratech struts and air bags. Malahide Fire Department and Southwest Oxford Fire Departments responded with additional equipment and manpower. As the additional crews and equipment arrived more struts were used. Paratech air bag hoses and controllers were used to put air in some of the struts. They also used their hydraulic ram to act as a brace while equipment was arriving.
Rescuers extricated the male in about 60 minutes, the female extrication was much more difficult as the initial collapse pushed her toward the foundation and her legs were bent behind her. This caused challenges and concerns as they had to dig underneath her all the while insuring additional instability to occur. It took about 3 hours to complete her extrication. Her removal from the trench was completed using their ladder truck as a high redirect. It was parked in front and extended over the house directly over the trench in the back yard. The crews in the trench secured her into the rope system and then left the trench as we raised her out. The rescue team consisted of the following agencies:
The rescue was challenging and dangerous and their entire team performed amazingly with the limited resources they had. Teamwork from several area departments and the fact that they all used Paratech equipment made for a successful, although non-traditional difficult technical rescue.
Note, 48 hours after the incident both trapped people are alive and have been released from hospital.
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