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Fire Chief Trapped After Trench Wall Collapses

Fire Chief Trapped After Trench Wall Collapses

Rescuers from the Park City Fire District rushed to Kearns Boulevard Tuesday morning to save a trench worker who became trapped when one of the walls collapsed on him. A medical helicopter quickly flew him to a Salt Lake hospital.

Courtesy of The Park Record

June 30, 2010


CHARLES CITY (AP) — Authorities in Floyd County say the Assistant Charles City Fire Chief needed the help of his department after a trench collapse trapped him up to his armpits in soil.

The Charles City Fire Department was called to Assistant Chief David Boehmer’s home Monday afternoon. Firefighters say Boehmer was working on a new home on his property when he was trapped in the trench. They say he was conscious and breathing at the time of his rescue.

Boehmer was taken to Floyd County Medical Center, then transferred to Mercy Medical Center North Iowa and finally arrived at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota late Monday night.

Boehmer was listed in stable condition early Tuesday.

The Park City Fire District firefighters lifted him out of the trench on a stretcher at 11:20 a.m. and quickly brought him across Kearns Boulevard to a waiting medical helicopter. The helicopter took off heading to the University Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Bob Evans, a Park City Fire District battalion chief who was among 18 firefighters and paramedics who responded to the scene, said the man was suffering extensive pain from his pelvis down. It did not appear that he suffered broken bones, Evans said. The man appeared to be in stable condition when he was brought out of the trench, Evans said. He remained alert throughout the rescue, Evans said.

The authorities did not release the man’s name. Evans said he is approximately 40 years old. The construction crews are preparing to build a pedestrian-bicyclist tunnel underneath Kearns Boulevard at the Comstock Drive intersection. The man works for Bowen Construction, the general contractor, City Hall spokesperson Phyllis Robinson said. It was not known where the man is from.

The dirt walls of the trench are 10 feet tall. Firefighters conducted an intricate rescue, using prefabricated panels to shore up the walls of the trench to guard against another collapse. Evans said the panels were placed in the shape of an 8-foot-wide box around the man before he was able to be brought out. Four compressed-air jacks were put into place across the trench to stabilize the panels. The rescuers wore rappelling gear as they worked inside the trench.

Evans said the paramedics gave the man pain medication through an intravenous needle inserted once the trench was stabilized. Once ready, the firefighters quickly lifted the man out on a stretcher that had been lowered into the trench. The firefighters shouted encouraging words to the man as they worked around him. He was wearing jeans, an orange, short-sleeved T-shirt, a hard hat and work boots when he was brought out.

The medical personnel then rushed the stretcher across Kearns Boulevard to the medical helicopter, which landed in the Treasure Mountain International School parking lot while the rescuers were still preparing to lift the man out of the trench.

Evans called the operation a “low-frequency, high-risk rescue for us.” He said there was a danger of the man suffering injuries to his lower body resembling those of people who are crushed. He said the man received medication to treat those sorts of injuries in addition to the pain medication.

The Park City Building Department, which sent officials to the site, will investigate the collapse. Robinson, who also responded, was unsure when work would restart.

The Park City Police Department closed a stretch of Kearns Boulevard close to the site for approximately 2 1/2 hours, directing drivers onto streets in Prospector.