An Indiana construction worker was rescued over the weekend after finding himself trapped in 18-foot-deep trench filled with water up to his shoulders for four hours following a collapse.
Dustin Leake, 35, told reporters he was lucky to be alive following a ‘freak’ accident on Saturday that nearly cost him his life.
Leake, a veteran construction worker, said he could barely breathe or talk throughout the harrowing ordeal.
‘You know a lot of people get a life or death scare that lasts 40 seconds,’ he recounted. ‘Mine lasted four hours. Four hours. I was scared for my life.’
Indiana construction worker Dustin Leake, 35, is lucky to be alive after a freak accident that took place at a work site in Noblesville on Saturday
Leake and his brother were pumping water out of a trench to prepare it for a sewer pipe installation, when the trench caved
Leake was stepping off a ladder when the ground beneath his feet gave way, plunging him into this muck
According to a statement from the Indianapolis Fire Department, a work crew from Millennium Contractors had been on site at 159th Street and Old Pond Road for about three hours on Saturday morning, pumping water out of a trench to prepare it for a sewer pipe installation, when the trench caved it.
Leake has worked for Millennium Construction for the last 14 years
Leake, who has worked for the construction company for 14 years, found himself in a hole filled with muddy water 18 feet underground the moment he stepped off a ladder and onto what he mistakenly thought was firm ground.
His brother, Devin Leake, also a construction worker, was at the site and witnessed the collapse.
‘The ground came out from underneath of me and before I knew it I was pinned up against the plate,’ Dustin told Fox 59 after his close call.
Firefighters from Indianapolis and the suburb of Noblesville worked in shifts for the next four hours to stabilize the trench to prevent Leake from drowning while digging gravel out from under him.
Dustin said he felt the waterlogged ground was sucking him in and he had difficulty breathing.
‘I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t talk and you know I just started slowing my breaths down,’ he said. ‘There’s a steel plate I was going under and I was starting to roll under and it was crushing me.’
Firefighters from multiple departments responded to the scene and took part in the complex rescue operation
It took firefighters four hours to pull the trapped worker to safety before he drowned or was crushed by the weight of the wet debris in the ditch
Vacuum trucks were used to pump 25,000 galloons of water from the ditch over a period of four hours
Kevin Jones, Special Operations Chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department, credited Devin with keeping his brother calm during the arduous four-hour rescue.
‘They would talk to each other and kind of regroup and get back in the right mindset for us to be able to help,’ Jones said of the Leake brothers.
Devin told the station there were moments when he thought his brother would not make it out alive.
‘I thought he was gonna get buried,’ he said of Dustin. ‘I thought he was gonna get buried alive.’
First responders used vacuum trucks to remove over 25,000 gallons of water from the hole, allowing them to ultimately pull Leake to safety at around 2pm after four hours.
Just after 2pm on Saturday, Leake emerged from the hole, having survived in the water for four hours
Leake was able to climb a ladder to the surface, after nearly being crushed in the trench
Leake was airlifted to a hospital in a good condition. He is pictured being transported
Dustin Leake (left) and his brother, Devin (right), speak to a Fox 59 reporter about the rescue
Video and still photographs taken at the scene show the mud-caked construction worker emerging alive from the trench with the help of firefighters.
Recalling the moment he was able to climb a ladder out of the hole, Dustin said he sensed instant relief.
Leake was airlifted to Methodist Hospital, where he was listed in good condition.
‘The extraordinary teamwork displayed and efforts of all involved today – gave Dustin the best chance at a good outcome,’ stated the Indianapolis Fire Department.
Dustin expressed gratitude to all the firefighters who took part in the complex, multi-agency rescue operation, and said he would like to reunite with them in order to thank them in person for saving his life.
‘They were awesome, beyond awesome,’ Dustin said.