UNION CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- The dramatic rescue of an East Bay man trapped in a cement mixer for hours played out live on ABC7 Thursday, and now, the victim is giving his first interview to the I-Team's Dan Noyes.
Sometimes when we check out an investigative tip, we don't find anything bad. And that's the case tonight. This man is just happy to be alive, and he thanks his co-workers for keeping him calm and firefighters for getting him out.
Twenty-seven year-old Joel Canela stayed past his shift as supervisor at U.S. Pipe and Foundry in Union City last Thursday, when he lost his footing over a silo that feeds a cement mixer.
"I went up there just to check from the top of the silo," Joel Canela told Dan Noyes. "I lost my footing and fell inside."
He fell into the dry mix, being circulated by the system's vibrators.
Joel Canela: "It was like quicksand or water,
Dan Noyes: "You're struggling."
Joel Canela: "I'm just trying to stay on top of it."
A co-worker shut off the machine trapping Canela waist-deep in dry cement, and called 911.
Dan Noyes: "Were you actually afraid for your life?"
Joel Canela: "At the beginning, I was, the first couple of minutes, the first five minutes I say."
But there was another frightening moment. Alameda Fire arrived, placed a harness around Canela, and started releasing the cement from below. But that squeezed Canela even harder. They had to stop.
"It worked a little bit because it got a lot of the cement around my waist out," said Canela.
Finally, after more than two hours, crews freed Canela, carefully walked him down stairs, and used a fire hose to wash off the cement. His voice is raspy from inhaling cement dust, a dentist gave him a cleaning today to remove the grit from his teeth, and he's wearing bandages over his burns.
"I have a chemical burn on my leg from the compression of the cement and I'm pretty sure it's like the sweat," Canela showed Dan Noyes. "And a rope burn from when I was trying to pull up."
This week marks Canela's sixth anniversary at U.S. Pipe. He's anxious to get back to work and to thank firefighters, co-workers, his friends and family.
"Just wanted to make sure everybody really know that I'm thankful and appreciate all the support I've been getting."
Cal-OSHA is investigating what happened -- the final report could take six months. Joel tells me it wasn't policy to wear a safety harness above that mixer, but it is now.