Police and fire department rescue crews worked to free a man trapped in waist-high sand when a trench he was working in for a cesspool installation collapsed Friday afternoon. Courtesy photo

(Updated – Dec. 15, 5:01 a.m.) Fire department rescue crews saved a man trapped in a trench collapse at a construction site off Doctors Path.

The man was working on a septic system installation at a new home on AJ Court when the walls of the trench caved in on him and trapped him at the bottom of a hole at least 20 feet deep, according to Riverhead Fire Department spokesperson Bill Sanok.

Police were called to the scene at 3:01 p.m. on a report of two men trapped in a collapse. One of the men had freed himself prior to police arrival, Riverhead Police said in a press release late Friday night. The other man was trapped in waist-high sand, police said.

Police and rescue workers reinforced the walls of the trench with plywood and removed sand with shovels and buckets, careful to avoid any further collapse of the trench. Crews worked for nearly two hours to free the victim and bring him up out of the hole.

He was conscious and alert when rescuers were able to bring him up out of the hole. He could be heard thanking his rescuers over and over again. 

He was flown by Suffolk Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment, according to RVAC chief Rod Richardson at the scene. The helicopter was standing by at the Riverhead Fire Department’s nearby training facility. Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps treated the man at the scene and were bringing him by ambulance to the helicopter for transport, Richardson said. Riverhead police later said the man was treated and released. OSHA was notified and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

Several area departments responded to assist Riverhead, including special teams from Hampton Bays, Hagerman and Selden fire departments. The Brookhaven Technical Rescue Task Force also responded. Sanok estimated there were over 100 responders on scene, Sanok said. 

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith went to the scene and was there when the victim was pulled from the hole.

“I’m very happy and grateful that he came out safe and sound,” Jens-Smith said. “Thank you to the volunteers who came to his rescue,” she said. “He’s very lucky — We’re all very lucky to have dedicated, trained volunteers who rush to help people in need. They do an amazing job,” Jens-Smith said.



Photo: Peter Blasl
Photo: Peter Blasl
Rescue crews place the man on a stretcher at the scene of the collapse. Photo: Peter Blasl

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.