PHOENIX – Firefighters freed a severely injured construction worker trapped for hours under tons of concrete Tuesday after part of the city’s old convention center abruptly collapsed during demolition work.
Casey Johansen, 28, was conscious and talking during the ordeal but suffered life-threatening injuries to his legs, said Mike Sandulak, a Fire Department division chief. He was taken to the hospital.
Surgeons were able to restore the blood flow to his legs, although the ultimate outcome was still in doubt, said Dr. Steven Reinhart, who was on call with the Fire Department.
More than 100 firefighters from Phoenix and nearby agencies worked for more than six hours to pull Johansen from the debris. Firefighters shored up the structure with wood and air bags and cut reinforcing rods in the concrete so they could remove it.
As Johansen awaited rescue, firefighters gave him painkillers and started intravenous lines so they could give other medications and fluids. Medical personnel in hospital scrubs and hard hats passed oxygen bottles and IV fluids into a hole.
Johansen’s father, who was working at the site, and his wife were allowed to talk to him and hold his hand until he was rescued. His mother, in-laws and siblings also were at the scene.
The accident happened before daybreak during demolition work on the old Civic Plaza when part of the structure’s Grand Entrance collapsed as Johansen was operating a front-end loader. The plaza, once home to conventions and trade shows in Phoenix, is being replaced. The cause of the accident was under investigation.