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Four Trapped When Trench Caves In; One Dies

November 8, 1996

MARGATE, Fla. (AP) _ Four workers laying a sewer line were buried under an avalanche of sand and mud and pinned by a huge boulder. One man was killed and two others were stuck in the quicksand-like mud for four hours.

``It was like getting hit by a car, I imagine,″ Mike Nugent of the Broward County Technical Rescue Team said.

The men were standing on the bottom of a trench connecting pipes for a nursing home Thursday when one wall of the unreinforced ditch caved in, bringing a van-size boulder with it.

The four were pinned on their knees, their heads jammed against the opposite wall of the ditch.

Oscar Escobar, a 27-year-old Honduran immigrant, was killed. Another man was quickly freed, but the two others, Floyd Grogan and Cleofes Brizuela, were not freed for hours and were seriously injured.

``Everybody was panicking _ the guys were up to their necks,″ said Chris Demma, who was installing tile at the nursing home.

Some 40 rescuers battled continuing cave-ins and mud for about four hours. They clawed sand away from the two men’s heads, braced the walls of the 10-by-6 foot trench with air jacks and used air hammers to break up the boulder. Finally, they dug with hand tools to free the semiconscious men.

``It was like a blind excavation. We had to do most of this work under water,″ Nugent said.

Brizuela and Grogan were airlifted to North Broward Medical Center, where Brizuela was in critical but stable condition today and Grogan was in stable condition.

Nugent said police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would investigate the accident.

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