September 22, 2023

Boom Truck Struck by Train Leads to Rope Rescue of Worker


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Two construction workers were thrown from a boom lift when the truck was struck by a train Monday afternoon, officials said.

One was thrown about 200 feet and taken to the hospital with possibly life-threatening injuries.

The other managed to grab onto the underside of the bridge he was working on and hang on until fire crews lowered him 40 feet to the ground.

“In 27 years, this is one of the strangest calls I’ve been on,” said David Edgar, the assistant chief for West Des Moines Emergency Medical Services.

The accident happened around 1:30 p.m. near Grand Avenue and Interstate Highway 35 in West Des Moines.

It was less than one-half mile from the scene of a house fire crews had been at since 10 a.m.

Members of the high angle rescue team rushed from the fire to the crash site, carrying their equipment part of the way because their truck was blocked in at the fire.

“Just an incredible set of circumstances,” said West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell. “They had to totally change their train of thought from firefighting to rescuing. They did a fantastic job.”

A crane operator from the construction crew lowered a firefighter toward the trapped worker, depending on instructions from the firefighters. Not only had the operator never been trained for a rescue operation, he couldn’t see where he was lowering the firefighter to.

“He got thrown into that situation and did a phenomenal job,” Whitsell said.

Luckily the worker already had a harness on, Whitsell said, and fire crews hooked onto it to lower him down.

The names of the two men have not been released.

“This is something you can train for all you want, but once you have to use it, time is not a luxury you have,” Whitsell said.

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