Man rescued after trench collapse at Illinois work site

By Patrick Clark and Joe Millitzer for

DUPO, Ill. – First responders rescued a man from a trench that collapsed around him Monday at a worksite in Dupo, Illinois. 

The victim, a man in his early 60s, was a contractor for Union Pacific Railroad. The man was working on a sewer system at Union Pacific’s rail yard near Carondelet Avenue at around 11:30 a.m. 

The victim and his coworkers were in the process of installing a second trench box in a pit near a lift station. A trench box is a metal box that goes inside a dug trench to stop dirt from falling in. They’re typically six to eight feet tall and five to six feet wide.

As the worker climbed out of the hole, the dirt gave way and he slipped between the outside of the trench box and the hole. The dirt at the top of the hole piled on top of him.

Crews worked until about 3:45 p.m. to free the man, who was airlifted to Saint Louis University Hospital by Arch helicopter.

Herb Simmons, the director for the St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency, credited first responders for working diligently and carefully throughout the rescue.

“You can’t just go in there and start grabbing,” said Simmons. “You’ve got the possibility of more ground collapsing around him or the rescuers. It takes time, and that’s why these men and women spend hours and hours of training. It takes time, and that’s why this turned out as good as it did.”

As the man was being dug out, rescuers discovered one of his feet had become lodged under the trench box. This kept him from being pulled out. A spokesman for Dupo FD said the victim took a shovel and dug his own feet out.

The man was alert and talking to first responders as they transported him to the hospital. 

Crews from the Dupo Fire Department, Prairie Dupont Fire Department, St. Louis Task Force, Signal Hill Fire Department, and St. Louis City and St. Clair County Emergency Services worked together during the rescue. 

“We are grateful for the numerous fire departments and local emergency response agencies that responded to this incident and that worked throughout the afternoon on this successful rescue,” said Union Pacific spokesperson Robynn Tysver.

Updated: December 2, 2021 — 2:10 PM

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