Worker rescued after trench collapse near NCCU football stadium in Durham

A worker’s legs were pinned by a fallen piece of concrete Tuesday when a trench collapsed on the N.C. Central University campus, officials said.

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

When the first firefighters arrived and assessed the situation, they requested backup from the Fire Department’s Tactical Rescue Team, Iannuzzi said.

The worker’s legs were also covered and trapped by soil that fell into the trench, Iannuzzi said. He was conscious and alert after the accident.

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

“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, Zoldos said.

He called it a successful rescue.

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

A construction company spokesman’s description of the incident matched what the Fire Department found.

“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.”

An online search of Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports turned up no previous investigations of Corvias.

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

NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez said construction of the residence hall is one of three major building projects underway.

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. That was an increase from 30 the prior year, The News & Observer reported in January after a worker died when a trench collapsed at an apartment construction site in north Raleigh.

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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