CEDAR HILLS, Ore. – Danny Russu was still in the intensive care unit Tuesday but was up and talking after about two feet of dirt caved in on him Monday while he was working on a sewer line in a trench.
Rescuers who pulled him out after his three and a half hour ordeal said he had dirt up to his waist and was using his hands to help push dirt back behind him.
It’s been an emotional 24 hours for everyone, including rescuers.
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter Kyle Leonard helped hoist Russu out of the hole. He worked for hours as the team came up with various rescue plans.
Leonard said he almost started crying when he came face to face with Russu as he lifted him out.
“This guy's life was in my hands, he's got a family, and I've got a family, and in that hole, we were brothers right then. I wasn't going to leave him behind, and when I went down that ladder for the second time, I wanted him to come out of the hole before me, that's why I do this job,” Leonard said.
Two of Russu’s co-workers were looking on when the bottom part of the 11-foot deep hole caved in.
On Tuesday, the company they work for, Apollo Drain and Rooter, had a different crew working to finish the sewer work.
The owner and president of the company, Scott Bird, along with several co-workers visited Russu in the hospital Monday night.
“First thing Danny said when we walked in the room was, 'My hero,’” Bird said as he held back tears. “He feels (his co-workers) saved his life.”
Two co-workers witnessed the collapse and helped dig Russu’s head and chest out of the dirt before rescuers arrived.
Bird feels his employees did everything right and believes this collapse was a "freak" accident.
“We've done hundreds of jobs like this, this was a textbook job, a walk in the park,” he said. “When they dug the trench, they followed procedures and put shoring required by OSHA for that job.”
Bird guessed recent rain was a factor and wondered if there was a void behind the shoring the workers couldn’t see.
Oregon OSHA had investigators on site Tuesday, checking for any violations that could have contributed to the accident.
Apollo Drain and Rooter has set up a GoFundMe page for those who wish to make a donation to help Russu through his recovery. Go here.