Man freed from collapsed trench in Allentown after hours-long rescue mission

Recuse crews in Allentown, Pennsylvania, worked for hours to free a man who became trapped when a trench collapsed Wednesday afternoon. 

First responders were called to the area of West Gordon and North Fulton streets around 2 p.m. for reports of two workers people in a collapsed trench. 

An official told FOX 29 that the first man was able to escape the 12-foot trench by climbing up a ladder. A second man was found conscious and buried up to his chin. 

After shoring up the trench to prevent further collapse, officials say crews worked to free the man by moving dirt with a vacuum system, shovels and their hands.

"The whole time he was in the trench he was under paramedics care," Allentown Fire Department Captain John Christopher said. 

During the hours long rescue mission, crews from nearby departments joined the effort. Christopher described the rescue as a "methodical process" due to the inability to use heavy equipment.

The man was finally freed just before 10:20 p.m. He was put into an ambulance and taken to Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest Hospital for medical evaluation.

Officials have not said what caused the trench to collapse and have not provided an update on the man's condition.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed their Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the trench collapse. They told FOX 29 the employer is Ed Simon Contracting LLC, based in Allentown, which was formerly Simon Contracting Inc.

The spokesperson says an inspection of the business in 2016, as a part of OSHA’s regional emphasis program on trenching, resulted in three serious violations involving trench excavation hazards and a final penalty amount of $5,500.

A spokesperson for the City of Allentown said they are still gathering information around the permits needed and obtained for the work. They know that the contractor has a valid Building Standards and Safety permit, and that the contractor was permitted to do a street cut on Wayne Street from the sewer line alley to the house.

The city says Tthe contractor also has an expired excavation permit through the Bureau of Engineering, which expired on December 12, 2022.

OSHA has up to six months to complete the investigation.