Cement avalanche traps worker

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by KING5.com Staff and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 18 at 10:09 AM

Video: Cement worker nearly buried in powdered cement

SEATTLE - Firefighters on Friday rescued a worker who was trapped in a powder avalanche at the Ash Grove cement plant in Seattle.

He was carried out on a stretcher at about 1 p.m. after being pinned in a front-loader for about an hour-and-a-half.

Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick says he was conscious and talking and using a breathing device as rescuers dug away the cement. She says he had been caught under a wall of collapsing cement in a large storage dome.

The 29-year-old worker had been scooping cement with a backhoe. At some point he backed up and hit a wall of dry cement, which fell on top of him.

"As it continued to fall it got up to about chest level at some point," Seattle Fire Department spokesperson Dana Vanderhouwen said.

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Firefighters had to put up plywood to build a path to get in. It was unlike any other rescue they'd experienced before.

"As much as they were sucking the dry cement out it just continued to slough back in," Vanderhouwen said.

The worker was taken to Harborview Medical Center in stable condition. Two firefighters and a worker at the company were also taken to the hospital after breathing in the dry concrete. All of them are expected to be OK.

Crews at the site Friday night were focused on cleaning up the mounds of concrete, which mixed with the rain outside and caused a mess - covering cars and the parking lot of the concrete company.

An Ash Grove Cement spokesperson says there were problems getting the powder cement out of a dome where it is stored. Somehow, the dome opened up, sending the dry cement flowing.

Traffic on East Marginal Way was not affected.

Ash Grove Cement is the same place where a barge loaded with gravel broke in two in early May.

The Department of Labor and Industries is investigating Friday's incident.

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