Article and photos by Michael Gurr
(1) The first-due engine responds, attempting early stabilization.
As I was driving toward the call, several things were going through my mind. One was that my department was trained only in trench rescue awareness, so I knew we could not make entry. We were trained approximately 10 years ago through the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) on a grant for trench and confined space rescue. I remembered that the quality of the soil in South Florida was the worst grade concerning trench rescue. Beach sand was possibly the worst-case scenario. We also had very limited supplies and equipment for this type of operation.
(4) Rescuers provide an SCBA mask to the victim.
While the TRT was responding, we deployed our rapid intervention team airway bag. I wanted the victim’s face protected from the sand in case of any further collapse. We put the self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) mask on his face; the eight-foot air hose was just long enough so we could rest the air bottle just past the lip of the trench. Several small collapses of sand come down on the victim during the placement of shoring; I believe the SCBA mask made things much easier on the victim.
(6) The Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fire Rescue TRT provided specialized equipment.
(7) Rescuers attempt to access the victim.
(9) Night sets in.
Just as we neared the two-hour mark, we finally made some progress and were able to free the victim from the bottom of the trench. I was ecstatic because we were running out of ideas of how to free him. He was alive and possibly in mild shock but otherwise had no noticeable injuries. He was transported to the nearest trauma center and was released against medical authority (AMA) the next day. If the victim was not young, and in good health and great shape (a professional swimmer), he probably would have succumbed to this traumatic accident.
(10) Finally, the victim is free.