Investigation continues into Brentwood trench rescue

February 2, 2012 7:08:06 PM PST
Investigators are trying to figure out what to do about a workplace accident in which a man was buried up to his neck in mud in an East Bay town. Rescue teams worked for hours to free a 50-year-old man in Brentwood last night.

Neighbors said the man who was pulled from a trench in the front yard of a Brentwood home is more than just a contractor to the homeowner.

"The contractor that they hired is a family friend. They consider him an uncle and have known him for decades. So when they needed the work done, they called him up and brought him out," said family friend Jeff Schults.

The dirt collapsed in on the man about 5:30 p.m. last night. He was trapped for three hours. The dirt came up to chest, leaving his head clear and free. Neighbors said he was calm throughout the ordeal.

"I knelt down into the pit that was already eight feet deep - so it kind of collapsed around him. He was conscious. He was helping the firefighters dig himself out," said next door neighbor Ted Mullen.

Still friends say it was hard for the homeowner to watch.

"I'm sure they were in prayer. Truly just concerned about what was going on," said Schults.

A Cal/OSHA investigator stopped by to talk to the homeowner this morning. The relationship between the homeowner and the contractor makes it tricky for the agency. A spokesperson said Cal/OSHA will get involved if there is an employee and employer relationship; if there is a family project, the agency will not investigate.

The victim is in the hospital and is expected to be OK, but a hospital spokesperson said he was not in the mood to talk to reporters today.

"I understand that he is going to be fine and that type of thing, but there only concern was about the person in the trench. All this other stuff is just stuff," said Schults.

The homeowner has not responded to requests to comment by ABC7. Neighbors said they had some kind of blockage in their sewer pipe that they were trying to dig to.