CHESTERFIELD TWP., Mich. - Two men were working on a home in Chesterfield Township when they suddenly found themselves trapped underground.
The trench they were working on collapsed prompting a major rescue effort Monday afternoon. Both men are said to be okay, alert and talking when they were taken to the hospital but if things had gotten worse here they could've lost their lives
"The two guys who were trapped were definitely in dire straits," said Fire Chief Doug Charbonne.
It happened at about 3 p.m. on Edgewater Street near Jefferson and Anchor. The men were working on a foundation wall of an unfinished home when the trench gave way.
"I hear 'Help help!' it sounded like kids screaming or something," said neighbor Stanley Zabicki. "These guys were desperate."
The men were waist deep in clay about 7 to 10 feet below ground and slowly losing circulation in their legs. The rescue efforts were hampered by wet shifting soil.
"It's saturated ground so we had subpumps in there trying to pump as much of it out," Charbonneau said. "There were guys trying to dig in the hole with small shovels to get the dirt out from around the guys.
"Had these guys been a little deeper where it was around their chest, they would not have survived because they would not have been able to breathe."
As first responders worked to get the men free, Chesterfield police blocked off the neighborhood keeping residents from their homes and even arrested those who insisted ongoing in.
This included the men's friends who tried to help the rescue efforts.
"The police officer told them to stop, they tried to walk around and immediately was turned around and arrested in less than 30 seconds," said Matt English, a neighbor.
"You have to have scene security," said Police Chief Brad Kersten. "There's a lot of people, a lot of individuals that believe they have the expertise to help, unfortunately, this is a professional rescue that needs to take place."
And with the help of other agencies, Chesterfield Township's Fire Department rescued and rushed one of the men to a nearby hospital at 5:30 Monday evening. The second man was pulled out at 6:19 p.m.
Both are now recovering. Authorities say they did not have the proper equipment for the work they were trying to do.
"Some better materials (could have helped avoid it), better shoring, better safety practices that should be common in this day and age but often times are not," Charbonneau said.
The police chief says the men who were trapped are not technically contractors but friends of the property owner. MIOSHA will decide if the homeowner and the general contractor will be held responsible for what happened there.