Local News

Construction Worker Still Critical After Trench Collapse

Posted February 9, 1998

— A construction worker remains in critical condition at Duke Medical Center after spending two-and-a-half hours trapped in a muddy trench at a Cary construction site.

Rescue crews worked to free 33-year-old Mark Swarzwood, who became trapped in the 12-foot-deep trench when its muddy walls collapsed around him.

It happened in the Preston development off Davis Drive in Cary around 10 a.m. Tuesday, where Wieland Homes workers were digging foundation trenches for a new home. No official cause has been determined for the collapse, but there is speculation that rain-soaked earth was a factor.

The trench that collapsed is located near a creek, which contributed to the moisture in the ground. Bob Bowling, a member of the construction crew, said the trench walls were saturated with water.

Bowling added that his prayers were answered when Swarzwood was pulled out of the trench alive. Now, he says, he is praying for the man's complete recovery.

Construction worker Jeff Gilchrist said everyone was pulling for Swarzwood during the rescue operaton.

Rescue workers at the scene said, when they first arrived, the man was buried over his head in mud and debris. Rescuers worked diligently, but cautiously in order not to cause further collapse of the surrounding trench walls or further injury to the injured man. As one rescuer joined Swarzwood in the trench to keep him communicating, others created air vents to enable Swarzwood to breath.

Gilchrist told WRAL-TV5'sKelly Wrightthat the mud was so restrictive it was hard to lift one's foot out of it. He said he couldn't imagine what it must be like to be covered in it.

Gilchrist said Cary and Morrisville fire and rescue workers did an excellent job under difficult circumstances.

Gilchrist and other construction workers wasted no time in helping their co-worker as soon as he was out of the trench.

Swarzwood, who is married with 2 children, repeatedly lost and regained consciousness before he was rescued.

The cause of the accident is under investigation.

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