CEDAR LAKE | A 51-year-old Cedar Lake man is lucky to be alive after a trench collapsed on him Thursday morning, Cedar Lake Fire Chief Todd Wilkening said.
"The result of these are usually fatal," Wilkening said.
Jeff Jillson was in fair condition Thursday afternoon at Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point, said Bill Bero, media relations specialist for Franciscan Alliance.
Jillson was working in a 7-foot-deep trench, intended for a sewer line, when the collapse occurred near the True Value store at 9708 Lincoln Plaza.
Wilkening said a trench box, used to support tunneling structures, was at the work site, but it wasn't being used prior to the collapse.
Police and fire officials were dispatched to the area about 9:15 a.m.
Wilkening said Jillson's head and chest were the only parts of his body exposed when emergency crews arrived. Jillson was somewhat conscious and having difficulty breathing.
A local technical rescue team was dispatched, but Cedar Lake firefighters extracted Jillson before the team arrived.
He was transported by ambulance to St. Anthony after he was rescued. If the extraction took longer, Jillson could have suffered more significant injuries, Wilkening said.
Cedar Lake emergency crews earlier called for a medical helicopter to transfer him to a trauma center.
Wilkening said it's protocol to call for a helicopter when an extraction is expected to last a long time. "It's a very dangerous situation," he said.
Because Jillson was rescued before the helicopter arrived, he was taken to St. Anthony.
Bob Dittmer, public information officer for the Indiana Department of Labor, said the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the trench collapse, but he couldn't release information about the investigation.
Wilkening said Jillson was working for McAllister Inc., of Cedar Lake, when the collapse occurred.
A message left at McAllister wasn't immediately returned.
— Times Staff Writer Lauri Harvey Keagle contributed to this report.