Man falls into coal pile in N.J.

January 21, 2009 2:36:44 PM PST
A bulldozer operator fell into a hole on top of a coal pit early this morning. It happened at about 6:30 a.m. at the PSE&G Generating Station on the 2500 block of Lamberton Road in Hamilton Township, New Jersey.

Officials say the worker was trapped inside the hole.

"The operator of the Caterpillar dozer was pushing coal around on the coal tower to push it into the hopper. He got a little too close to the edge and, for whatever reason, fell down inside the hopper, dropping 40 to 50 feet, and the operator was trapped inside the cab," said Chief Thomas Gribbon of the Hamilton Fire Department.

The Hamilton Fire Department's Ladder 13 is staffed with rescuers specially trained for confined space and high angle rescues.

Firefighters set up on top of a tower, lowering a rescuer down into the pit.

"Once I got down there, I was able to remove whatever coal was on top of his machine and I opened his door. He said he was okay, said he had a shoulder injury and his lip was bleeding," said firefighter Mike Kiernan.

"We secured the driver to a rescue harness, hooked him up to a hauling system, and then we raised both of them out of the hole," said Lt. Keith Greene.

The driver, who has not been identified, was talking and able to walk himself to the ambulance.

The plant is now operating on gas until the investigation into what happened at the coal pit is complete.

"We just need to understand what happened here, and we will take affirmative, corrective action once we identify it all," said a PSE&G spokesman.

The driver was taken to the hospital, where he was reported to be in stable condition.

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