Construction worker Dustin Leake from Indianapolis nearly lost his life over the weekend after the water-filled 18-foot-deep trench he was working on caved in and trapped him for hours.
The 35-year old is a veteran on the job, having worked as a construction worker for 14 years. But no amount of experience could have prepared him for the "freak situation" that made him scared for his life.
He told reporters that he was on a "life or death scare" that lasted four hours. He could barely breathe or talk as the muddy water trapped him underground.
Officials with the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) said workers were on the site at 159th Street and Old Pond Road pumping water out of the trench to prepare it for a sewer pipe installation. Dustin and his brother Devin were working on the site that day. The incident happened when Dustin stepped off a ladder and onto what he thought was firm ground. But it caved in and before he knew it, he was "pinned up against the plate."
"I couldn't breathe and I couldn't talk and you know I just started slowing my breaths down. There's a steel plate I was going under and I was starting to roll under and it was crushing me," he recalled of the horrible ordeal with Fox59.
The Noblesville Fire Department (NFD) and the IFD Trench Rescue Team worked together to rescue Dustin. The entire operation started at 10:30 a.m. and ended around 2:00 p.m. Rescuers reportedly pumped 25,000 gallons of water out of the trench to give him a ladder to safety.
"With trench rescue we're dealing with unstable soil there. We're called because there's already been a collapse. They were working that area and they had a lot of water and they were trying to de-water it to do their construction work, so that makes it more complex for our operation as well," Kevin Jones, special operations chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department, said.
"Worst case scenario, it's like 60 feet per square foot of depth. So what that does is when it gets around the body it can crush and make it hard to breathe, so the victim was very fortunate he wasn't trapped much higher and that he was still in soil he was able to maintain an open airway and breathe for the duration of the operation," he explained.
Devin said there were moments when he thought his brother "was gonna get buried alive." Thankfully, the operation was a success. Jones also credited him for keeping his brother calm during the ordeal. The siblings could not be more grateful to the firefighters. Dustin said he would like to reunite with them in the future to thank them personally.