PORTLAND -- Emergency crews rescued a worker who was trapped under rubble for 3 1/2 hours after a utility trench collapsed in Washington County, fire officials said.
Crews finally managed to pull Danny Russu out of the ground just after 2:30 p.m. He was taken by ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he is listed in serious condition Monday night in the intensive care unit.
Russu, 21, of Gresham and two other men were working in the sewer line trench, which was about 11 feet deep, in the 1700 block of Southwest Bowmont Street when it collapsed. Two men escaped but Russu was buried.
"He was completely buried under 600 pounds of dirt," said homeowner Leonard Gebbie, who saw it all unfold.
Ryan Bird and another coworker frantically clawed at the dirt until they managed to uncover Russu's face so he could breathe. They also braced themselves against the side of the trench to keep it open.
"Once he could breathe, he was just kind of in panic mode but I wanted to make sure I didn't take too much out so more falls in," Bird recalled. "He is a very religious guy and he was crying and shouting prayers."
Neighbors called 911 and paramedics responded quickly, giving Russu intravenous fluids and oxygen while firefighters worked to safely remove dirt around him.
He appeared to be moving his feet and toes and was "doing well," said Darlene Hall of Apollo Drain & Rooter Services Inc., the company Russu worked for.
Apollo Drain released the following statement:
"First and foremost, our employee seems to be doing well for which we are extremely grateful. Next, safety takes top priority here at Apollo Drain. As such, we take every safety precaution on our excavation job sites including strict adherence to all OSHA standards. We believe this was an unfortunate freak accident possibly due to the recent overabundance of rain in our area. All indications from emergency personnel are that the quick actions of his fellow workers likely saved his life. Finally, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to all of the emergency workers that worked tirelessly to not only safely extricate him, but to keep him calm in what was surely a frightening situation."
Apollo Drain was inspected by the Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division in May of 2013 and three violations were found. Apollo was fined $250 for the most serious infraction, for a missing guard on a piece of equipment.
OSHA was investigating Monday's trench collapse.
Crews are bringing man up from trench now pic.twitter.com/HTeeVmCoZZ— Kyle Iboshi (@KyleIboshi) March 3, 2014
KGW reporter Kyle Iboshi contributed to this report.