GROSSE ILE (WWJ) –  A 56-year-old man is in critical condition after being rescued from a collapsed trench that he was working on in Grosse Ile.

WWJ’s Pat Sweeting reports the incident happened sometime around 10:30 a.m. Thursday on Meridian Road and Owen Street, on the north end of the island near the toll bridge.

Police say the man, a Grosse Ile resident and employee of the township’s Department of Public Works, was submerged for at least 14 minutes when the 12-feet deep trench collapsed. Grosse Ile Fire Chief Duncan Murdock was among the first to respond.

“I was already in my vehicle and I responded to the scene. Upon my arrival, there was a gentleman that was buried and two of his co-workers were in the process of digging him out,” he said.

Murdock said those two DPW employees, who are also volunteer firefighters for the township, could only use their hands to free the man.

“Because of his condition, they couldn’t use a back-hoe because of the proximity of the individual to the surface of the ground, so it was all hand work,” said Murdock. “Meanwhile, they were trying to get him oxygen while he was buried, they were trying to get his head uncovered while they were doing the work.”

Murdock said the man wasn’t conscious when he was removed from the trench. Emergency crews from the neighboring city of Trenton responded and were able to resuscitate the man before he was taken by a medical helicopter to Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

The man, whose name wasn’t immediately released, is described as being in very critical condition. The extent of his injuries is unknown.

Patrick McHugh, who lives nearby, thinks workers in the area were fixing a problem with a water main, based on what he was told Wednesday.

“I saw the guys in a pickup truck get out and walk across the ditch and go about two feet into the woods. I waited and asked them what’s going on and they said they got a small water leak here,” he said.

It’s not yet clear what caused the trench to collapse. An investigation is ongoing.

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