Firefighters rescue man trapped in cement hopper for 2.5 hours

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Alameda County firefighters rescued a man stuck in a cement hopper for two-and a half hours Thursday evening. Firefighters responded to U.S. Pipe and Foundry at 1295 Whipple Road in Union City at around 4:00 p.m.

A worker told KTVU that a 27-year-old supervisor was looking into the silo when he lost his balance and fell inside. The man, identified by a co-worker only as Joelle, was reportedly stuck up to his waist in dry cement.

He was extracted by firefighters just after 6:30 p.m.

Alameda County Fire secured the worker with a harness to prevent him from sinking deeper into the cement. They also gave him oxygen during the ordeal. Crews drained product from the bottom of the hopper to alleviate the dry cement from around the man in what was called a confined space rescue.

Skyfox was over the situation and could see crews hosing the man off before he was taken away in an ambulance. A steady stream of emergency vehicles converged on the property to help the trapped worker.

"[The] supervisor was looking into the silo, checking on cement and fell in there and he's up to his chest in there," Manfred Schmidt," a U.S. Pipe employee told KTVU early on.

Rescue unit Captain Richard Riggs was among the first on the scene.

"Our biggest concern is to make sure he doesn't get crushed or engulfed with type of material we've seen it before with other trench calls. He can continue to sink in," Riggs said during the rescue effort.

Alameda County Fire was assisted by four engine companies, a ladder truck and hazardous response team.

The man continued to sink during the rescue, along with the oxygen, he was given water to keep him hydrated.

"These operations in a confined space pose respiratory challenges to the the rescuers with a technical response. 50 percent of casualties are usually rescuers in a confined space," said John Walsh a division chief.

"Those of you who have worked around cement, you open a bag, a big poof of dust, it's the same thing in a giant hopper with thousands of pounds of dry cement," said Riggs.

"We're happy that we can bring some closure to it and he's going to his success is our success," said Capt. Brian Ferreira with Alameda County Fire Department Special Operations Division.

A sign out front says the company had gone 15 days without an accident.

The victim, a 12-year employee who was promoted to supervisor within the last year, was recovering at the hospital. His condition was not immediately known. However, he was able to stand on his own two feet before being put inside an ambulance.

California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) is investigating.