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Worker rescued from Tamaqua trench cave-in

  • The trench where a Tamaqua plumber was buried alive Monday after the wall caved in.
    The trench where a Tamaqua plumber was buried alive Monday after the wall caved in.
Published June 29. 2010 05:00PM

Daniel Riegel, owner of Daniel Riegel Plumbing & Heating of Tamaqua, was injured Monday morning when he was buried in dirt after a wall of a trench caved in on him at a construction site.

The incident occurred just after 10 a.m. at 512 Lombard St., Tamaqua.

Reports from the scene indicate Riegel was working in the deep trench when the south wall caved in after being weakened by recent heavy rains.

The trench was dug Monday morning as Riegel was working to install a sewer line from the home to the main in the center of the street. The walls of the trench were reportedly not shored up.

Rich Greim and Robert Montesrin, who were working with Riegel, were inside the home and ran outside when they heard a noise. They observed Riegel up to his neck in dirt, and immediately jumped into the pit and quickly started digging in a hectic effort to save their friend. After about a minute, Greim and Montesrin uncovered Reigel's head which was tilted downward and in the dirt. After lifting his head, Reigel took a deep breath and said "I thought I was a goner."

A neighbor to the work site, Michael Bright, a member of the Tamaqua Rescue Squad, heard the page for an accident with entrapment at his neighbor's address. Bright ran out of his home expecting to see a motor vehicle crash, but only found a mound of dirt on his neighbor's lawn.

Bright then jumped in and assisted the other two in trying to free Riegel. Bright said Riegel, because of being encased in mud, could not breathe. Bright said Riegel's face was bloodied.

Emergency personnel from the South Ward and Citizens fire companies, and Tamaqua Rescue Squad responded to the call. Two of those volunteers were Jason Hollenbach Jr. and Jason Stidham Jr.

Volunteers also quickly went down to Kane Lumber, located at the bottom of S. Lehigh St. (Stadium Hill) to quickly acquire donated plywood to help shore and secure the trench's walls with rams.

Riegel was treated at the scene by members of the Tamaqua Rescue Squad and Lehighton paramedics, then flown by PennStar helicopter to St. Luke's Hospital, in Fountain Hill. A hospital spokesperson said Riegel was treated and released.

Tamaqua fire police maintained traffic control at the scene. Tamaqua police and representatives of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating the incident.

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