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Merrimack Valley

November 19, 2013

Trench collapse pins worker

Emergency responders from the Valley help in rescue

IPSWICH — A construction worker was pinned for nearly three hours yesterday after a trench collapsed on him, nearly burying him in debris.

Rescue workers from Andover and elsewhere in the Merrimack Valley responded to help.

William Gallagher, 40, of North Reading, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and remained conscious throughout the afternoon rescue. Workers were installing a sewer line on the side of Route 1A, across from Upper River Road.

The initial collapse buried Gallagher up to his chest in dirt and chunks of asphalt, authorities said. First responders were able to free him up to his waist, but the rescue proved tricky because his leg was pinned on a gas main.

“The problem with trench rescues is the more you dig, the more it collapses,” said Ipswich fire Chief Jack Parow.

Once extricated, Gallagher was transported to Boston Medical Center by helicopter. He had injuries to his lower extremities, said Ipswich police Chief Paul Nikas.

The collapse happened just before 11 a.m. Nikas said yesterday he wasn’t sure if Gallagher was in the trench at the time of the collapse or if he was standing nearby and fell in as it happened.

Two Ipswich police officers, Patrolman Jason Sinclair and Sgt. Justin Daly, were working a detail at the construction site yesterday. They “went into action” as soon as the Gallagher was buried, Nikas said, and jumped in to try and dig him out by hand and free him.

They quickly realized he was seriously pinned and called dispatch for help, he said.

“They did an excellent job of stabilizing and getting (him) room to breathe,” Nikas said of his two officers. “... It was a high-stress situation for them, and I think they did a fantastic job.”

Route 1A was closed yesterday afternoon as rescue teams from Ipswich police and fire departments and the Essex County Technical Rescue response team worked to free the man and stabilize the trench.

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