Worker rescued after being sucked into sewer pipe

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 21, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 21 at 10:40 PM

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Firefighters rescued a worker who was sucked into a sewer pipe Monday morning.

The man went into an 85-foot-deep shaft to do some work on the sewer line and went for a ride he'd much rather forget.

"You can imagine what's down there, everything that's in a sewer. Everything's is gooey, slimy, smells terrible," said Bob Atkinson with Pierce County Public Utilities.

The 37-year-old worker with Coluccio Construction was inside the sewer pipe inspecting it when, for some reason, he disconnected from his safety harness and then slipped into the sludge.

"He would tumble every now and then in the water. It's sewage water, it's kinds nasty but he would take hold of himself and say nope I've got to get upright and he would get right," said Ray Clouatre of Coluccio Construction.

The worker was washed about 3,500 feet, nearly three quarters of a mile downstream. He ended up trapped in a 4-foot sewer pipe with less than 18-inches of breathing room with 15,000 gallons of waste water per minute gushing around him.

Atkinson heard the man's cries for help.

"We've pulled a lot of stuff out of the end of the line but this is the first time we've had a live one come out," he said.

The worker was finally able to wedge himself at a bend in the line and after about half an hour in pitch black and raw sewage, Atkinson and rescue crews pulled him from the pipe. He was exhausted and had a split lip and broken tooth, but all-in-all a very lucky man.

"If he would've hit his head or taken a breath of air and got water and drowned…he is very lucky to have survived," said Atkinson.

Pierce County public works officials say this is the first incident of its kind in the 27-year history of the plant. L&I is investigating to determine why the worker unhooked from his safety harness.

 

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