Trench collapses, injures two county workers

Local fire and rescue personnel were sent out to McCall Boulevard to rescue two city workers trapped in a trench after a wall fell in on them. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Local fire and rescue personnel were sent out to McCall Boulevard to rescue two city workers trapped in a trench after a wall fell in on them.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

With helicopters buzzing overhead, firefighters extracted two Kitsap County Public Works employees from a deep trench Tuesday.

Joe Bowling, of Seabeck, and Shane Hart, of Silverdale, became trapped in the 8-foot by 4-foot trench when it partially collapsed at about 10:30 a.m. at the corner of McCall Boulevard and National Avenue in Navy Yard City. The two men were installing a storm drain pipe when the accident occurred.

“It looks like everything was done the way it was supposed to,” said Doug Bear, public works spokesman. “It was just an accident.”

Soil collapsed around Bowling and Hart, leaving them stuck knee-high inside the trench, according to Bear.

Firefighters from Bremerton Fire Department, Bainbridge Island Fire Department, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue, South Kitsap Fire & Rescue and Navy Region Northwest Fire and Emergency Services worked together to free the two men.

“People don’t realize it really is an overall team effort,” said Deputy Scott Wilson, spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office.

Firefighters removed 3 1/2 feet of dirt to free the men. They were trapped inside a shoring box, which keeps the banks of dirt from fully collapsing into the trench.

“It’s a good thing they had the proper shoring box,” Bear said. “It certainly would have had a different outcome otherwise.”

Crews lowered a harness from Bremerton Fire Department’s ladder truck and pulled both men out of the trench. The men were freed at 11:35 a.m. and 11:50, respectively.

“Things like this happen from time to time in the construction trade,” Wilson said.

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department has special training and equipment for situations such as a trench collapse. The fire department received a homeland security grant to create the Special Operations Response Team (SORT).

The Bainbridge Island Fire Department requires extensive and ongoing training for SORT personnel as well as a special vehicle. The recently acquired rig has roll-up doors and contains ropes, jacks, stabilizers and other tools used to raise or lower people.

Aside from serving Bainbridge Island, SORT assists Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam counties with rescue efforts. The trench accident in Bremerton was the first time the department used the special operations team and rig.

“The need was there and we were ready to assist,” said Bainbridge Island Fire Chief Glen Tyrrell.

Eleven Bainbridge Island firefighters responded to the trench accident and Tyrrell said it was a success.

“The potential there was huge. We’re very fortunate it came out the way it did,” Tyrrell said. “We’re glad we were able to demonstrate our abilities.”

Bowling and Hart were transported to Harrison Medical Center with minor injuries, treated and released the same day. They will return to work on Monday.

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