Water authority worker freed from manhole

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Fire and rescue workers wait to begin extracting the Water and Sewerage Dept. employee from a manhole inside a building. The process required eight ropes and pulleys.

Detroit — Firefighters on Detroit's east side have freed a Great Lakes Water Authority worker after he fell into a manhole Monday morning.

The 62-year-old man was pulled from the manhole, which was described as “three feet by three feet, 40 feet down," at about noon, according to Gene Biondo, deputy chief of the Detroit Fire Department.


Reports of the fall came in shortly after 10 a.m. and officials responded to the 17100 block of Mack, on the Grosse Pointe border. 

The man who fell in was a “spotter” working near the top while two others were deeper into the hole.

“Somehow he slipped” and fell in, Biondo said. The two others were able to climb out, but the spotter himself was rendered immobile by the fall.

“There was no way he could come out” without being pulled, Biondo said.

The rescue effort was the result of elbow grease, skill, and some luck, Biondo said.

Six fire department experts in “confined space” rescues happened to be in the area when the call came in.

The extrication required some eight ropes, with “probably 20 to 30 knots” on each rope, knots that Biondo said “are all critical” in such a rescue.

“Every one of them was exactly how we trained,” Biondo said.

Biondo said Monday’s rescue was “not too common,” and that he’ll be putting all involved up for a department commendation.

“This was a series of knots and pulleys as good as you’ll ever see,” Biondo said.

After the rescue, medics treated the victim at the scene, and the expectation was he would be transported to St. John Hospital for further care.