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Telephone Worker Rescued from Manhole in Raleigh

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RALEIGH — A telephone worker in Raleigh is in good condition, recovering from injuries he suffered Friday morning after falling down a manhole.

Around 11 a.m., firefighters were able to rescue David Eadie by using cables to pull him out of the manhole.

He was doing contract work for BellSouth when the accident happened.

While preparing to work on some cable lines below ground, Eadie removed the lid from one manhole. He was trying to remove the lid from a second manhole when he stumbled and fell into the manhole he had just opened.

Eadie fell 20 feet, and firefighters think he landed on his back. He was conscious and complained of pain in his hips and back.

There were some dangerous moments while he was lifted back to the surface. As rescuers tried to raise Eadie, levels of poisonous gas in the hole climbed as well.

Ventilators help disperse gasses when working underground. Firefighters say fumes from Eadie's gas-powered ventilator were causing carbon monoxide levels to rise in the hole.

In these situations, rescuers themselves have sometimes gotten stuck or been overcome by gasses. It is a dangerous situation for them, but it is something they are trained for.

"The oxygen levels are low. You might have increased carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide levels and stuff like that" says firefighter Doug Campbell. "We're constantly trained on that."

The fire department uses electric-powered ventilators. They say gas-powered ventilators are dangerous because of the possibility of increasing gas levels.

Eadie was doing contract work for BellSouth.

"You know, we do not use a gas-powered generator. I'm talking about we, Southern Bell, the underground people," says Len Harris of BellSouth.

A BellSouth spokesperson does say the company routinely uses the gas-powered type and that they are safe, despite the fumes they triggered here.

"There was an issue with carbon monoxide in the hole early on, but we switched to a ventilation equipment that we use that eliminates that problem," says battalion chief Rusty Styons.

BellSouth says the gas powered ventilations they use are safe, federally approved and regulated. andMichelle Singer