The FDNY rescued a construction worker buried up to his chest in debris after a trench he was digging in the backyard of an East 23rd Street home collapsed on him.
According to a neighbor, the pit the man was excavating as part of a home extension collapsed on the man at approximately 1:45 p.m. Two pits, which appeared to be at least 10 feet deep, three feet wide and seven feet long, were located in the backyard of 2407 East 23rd Street, between the home and garage.
“He was stuck up to here, and he said he couldn’t breathe” said neighbor Doris Ergas, gesturing to the middle of her chest. “He called to me and said to call 911, so I called. There was dirt on him, and there was wood. Because of that wood, he couldn’t get out of that dirt. Thank God they came and helped him out, and thank God I was home.”
Authorities arrived quickly on scene after the call, drawing a response from the police department, FDNY, rescue operations, Office of Emergency Management, Con Edison’s emergency team, and the Buildings Department. Avenue X was closed to traffic as the response grew, with authorities accessing the victim through an easement that runs through the center of the block, between East 23rd Street and East 24th.
After approximately half an hour, the worker, who has not been identified, was taken to Kings County Hospital with minor injuries.
Department of Buildings records indicate that the landlord was converting the ground level unit of the multi-family home into a commercial location, with plans to extend the first and second floors towards the rear. There were no complaints registered against the construction until the collapse.
It’s not yet clear what caused the collapse, although the architect who drew the plans said the preliminary theory is that the contractor hit bedrock and attempted to remove a boulder.
“It seems they had bedrock and the contractor tried to remove a boulder and that’s what we’ve heard has caused this collapse of the trench,” said Robert Palermo, head of Corporate Design of America (1816 Voorhies Avenue). Palermo did the designs for the work but was not involved in the construction. He did not identify the company responsible. “To be honest, this took us all by surprise and we’re still trying to figure it out. From what I’ve heard, the fellow is okay, he had a broken rib or something, but he’ll be okay and that’s all that matters.”
The Department of Buildings is investigating the cause of the accident.
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Correction (5:34 p.m.): The construction worker was taken to Kings County Hospital, not Lutheran, as the original version of this report stated.