Tragedy averted in New Albin through quick response to jobsite trench collapse

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Every occupation has hazards. For those who must dig trenches, collapsing walls is one of those hazards. Rainy weather and soil conditions caused such an incident Thursday, March 31 in New Albin, but quick thinking and response helped prevent something far worse.
Matt Troendle from Lansing and Aaron Mitchell from New Albin, both of Tri-State Heating and Plumbing, were digging a trench to install new sewer lines close to the elementary school in New Albin. The job was progressing normally with both men working in the trench. Troendle left the trench to operate the company's back hoe and, without warning, the trench began collapsing in on Mitchell. Troendle immediately called 911, so emergency personnel were on their way, but Troendle’s quick reactions of jumping into the trench with a shovel and digging Mitchell out prevented a tragic outcome.
Lansing/New Albin police officer Conrad Rosendahl received the call at approximately 3 p.m. that there was an emergency involving someone trapped in a collapsed trench in New Albin. The Fire and Rescue Department from New Albin had also been notified and had members on their way. Rosendahl stated that when he arrived about 10 minutes later, Mitchell was already out of the ditch and was being checked out in the ambulance. He reported that when the west wall of the trench began to collapse, Mitchell tried to scramble out but was caught by the collapsing dirt avalanche and was covered in dirt up to his upper chest.
Anytime someone is confined in collapsing dirt, the pressure  that the dirt exerts surrounding the victim can be life threatening, Rosendahl said. Troendle grabbed a shovel and jumped into the trench, digging furiously. By the time New Albin Fire and Rescue arrived, Troendle had freed Mitchell enough that he could get out of the trench.
The New Albin Fire and Rescue ambulance transported Mitchell to a hospital in La Crosse, WI for overnight observation of his injuries. It was reported that he was released from the hospital the next day.