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Calif. Worker Rescued From Trench

January 21, 1999

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Cold and dirty, a construction worker who had been buried for nearly eight hours smiled broadly as he was pulled from a deep trench to the cheers of 175 rescue workers.

The worker, identified by friends as Arturo Garcia, talked to rescue crews and clutched the hands of others as he was strapped to a stretcher and taken to a hospital just before midnight Wednesday. He suffered cuts and bruises and was in good condition today at a hospital.

``The only thing he said was, `I feel fine, thank you,‴ said Mark Eckstein, medical director of the Los Angeles City Fire Department. ``He was awake and alert and said he was cold.″

Garcia was helping place a 54-inch pipeline for Mladen-Buntich, a company under contract for the Department of Water and Power, said utility spokesman Walter Zeisl.

The construction crew was placing the last 200 yards of a 13-mile project when the trench collapsed about 4 p.m.

Rescue workers had to shore up walls of the trench to prevent a further collapse while crews used a machine called an ``air knife,″ which works like a big vacuum, to suck dirt out. Others carried dirt out with buckets.

Garcia had been buried over his head several times during the rescue, and crews feared they had lost him, said city fire Capt. Steve Resnick.

``But when we uncovered his head, he began moving and the crews were re-energized,″ Resnick said.

Officials did not immediately know what caused the walls to collapse at the construction site in Pacoima, about 10 miles north of downtown.

Southern Pacific railroad and Metrolink trains that run on tracks near the construction site were stopped out of fear that vibration could cause further collapse of the trench.

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