MIDLOTHIAN — Three workers made it safely to the ground after the roof they working on at the Martin Marietta cement plant collapsed on Friday.
Emergency crews were called out the plant at 9:51 a.m. in the 200 block of Ward Road.
“The roof structure itself was about 80-90 feet above ground,” said Midlothian Fire Chief Dale McCaskill. “One worker self-extricated after the collapse. One we were able to get to through some scaffolding and platforms underneath, and cut a hole to allow him to get down. Then, the third was in a position was where we could not access him safely.”
McCaskill said about 20 minutes into responding to the incident, a call for assistance was made to the Red Oak Fire Department for the use of its heavy rescue team to conduct a high angle rescue. Assistance was also requested from the Gerdau steel plant’s rescue team, which has trained rope rescue technicians. Because of the height, a crane was requested from Irving.
McCaskill said they were able to keep in contact with the worker on the roof through the cellphone he had with him. The worker informed the fire department he did not have any medical issues or injuries and that the roof was not shifting anymore. Firefighters were also able to inform the worker of the rescue plans.
Once the crane arrived, it gave firefighters the height and the reach to rescue the worker. At the end of the crane, a attached basket carried firefighters up to the trapped worker.
Capt. Brandon Nichols, with the Red Oak Fire Department, said his department with Midlothian as well as the team from Gerdau worked together to develop and execute a plan that would bring the worker safely to the ground.
“Once we got there, Chief McCaskill was in command. He had already called for that crane because we had no other way to get to him. We had to have some type of high point and didn’t have any other way to produce one. Two of our rescue technicians got into the basket and the crane operator raised them up. They were in there with another crane operator who was talking to the guy,” Nichols said. “So we just went through the motions and developed that safest plan that would keep everyone safe and keep him from falling farther. That was kind of the nuts and bolts of it. The two Red Oak guys that went up into the basket hooked up a line to him.”
The two Red Oak firefighters that went up in the basket were Kirk Markgraf and Justin Slovak.
Nichols said prior to the collapse each worker had a safety harness and safety line attached to them. After the collapse, the anchor point that the worker was secured to was damaged, so it was important to put him on new line that was fully secure, he said. Before Red Oak arrived Midlothian firefighters were successful in securing one line on him, Nichols said.
“We were worried because the building was obviously compromised. There were some beams that were twisted and beams that had collapsed. It was definitely a dangerous rescue,” Nichols said. “The way we ended up coming up with a plan kept everyone in the safest manner that we could possibly do.”
Firefighters took almost three hours to complete the rescue with the worker making it to the ground at 12:45 p.m. After reaching the ground, the worker was transported to Methodist Mansfield Medical Center with some minor issues.
“We established safe zones and did the best that we could to establish the stability of the structure around the collapse. It was really a good collaborative effort with Martin Marietta, Gerdau, and the fire departments that responded. Everyone worked well together,” McCaskill said. “We made good decisions, and in the end, patience was the best thing that we could have. We waited on a crane that we could get to him safely on. We are thankful for the partners that we have and the fact that people came together.”
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