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Peril In The Park Worker Pinned In Ditch When Retaining Wall Collapses

Jenny Blackhart likely didn’t know what hit her.

Blackhart, a seasonal worker at Spokane’s Riverfront Park, was helping colleagues dig a ditch Monday when part of a retaining wall made of rocks and boulders collapsed behind her.

The slide pinned Blackhart, 19, in the ditch and snapped her right femur.

When firefighters arrived, she was losing blood from the injury, and a loveseat-sized boulder teetered over her.

“It was precarious,” Spokane Fire Lt. Bill Donahoe said. “That boulder was leaning her way.”

Blackhart held hands with a colleague while rescuers worked frantically to free her.

First, they had to contend with the boulder. Firefighters wrapped a heavy chain around the rock and hooked it to a park backhoe.

The operator gingerly, inch by inch, pulled the boulder away.

Then paramedics and firefighters dug out the rocks and dirt trapping Blackhart, who had two IVs plugged into her arms and an oxygen mask over her face.

The woman’s face contorted with pain as rescuers using shovels and their hands worked her legs free.

“Oh, God, my leg, my leg!” Blackhart said. “Please, don’t move me.”

Paramedics eventually got her into an ambulance and drove her to Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she was in satisfactory condition late Monday.

Park Manager Hal McGlathery said Blackhart was part of a crew working to relocate a Dumpster-sized trash compactor near the Ferris wheel.

When the wall caved in, she and her co-workers were using shovels and picks to dig a ditch for the electrical conduit that would supply power to the compactor, McGlathery said. “This wasn’t any big excavation project,” he said.

McGlathery said members of Blackhart’s crew - most of them in their late teens or early 20s - were traumatized by the accident.

Many, tears in their eyes, hugged and comforted each other after Blackhart was driven away.

The city called in counselors to help them deal with their emotions, he said. “They are a very tight group,” McGlathery said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos

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