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Missouri Sewer Worker in Critical Condition One Week After Harrowing Ride Through Pipe

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A 30-year-old construction worker from Collins, Mo., remains in critical condition at a Kansas City, Mo., hospital more than a week after he was accidentally swept 1.5 miles through a sanitary sewer pipeline in Raymore, Mo.

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Daniel Collins was working about 12 ft below ground in a sanitary sewer shortly after 8:00 a.m. on Oct. 12, when a torrent of raw sewage flowing at a rate estimated at up to 3,500 gal per min swept him more than 7,900 ft through the 27-in-dia sewer pipe.

It is still unclear how Collins’ safety harness separated from its attached safety line when he went down the manhole in downtown Raymore to finish work on a plastic liner pipe his employer, Rosetta Construction Co., Springfield, Mo., was installing in the sanitary sewer.

Collins was still wearing the harness when Raymore utility workers and Kansas City Fire Dept. paramedics found him 90 minutes later in a silt trap at the bottom a manhole near the 15th fairway of the Creekmoor Golf Course‹ some 7,9000 ft down the sanitary sewer from where he had been working.

Utility workers and more than 20 firefighters searched about 25 manholes along the sewer route before finding Collins huddled in the fetal position in the silt box, which South Metro Fire Chief Randy Adams describes as being a bit larger than a standard manhole.

After searchers heard Collins calling from the bottom of the manhole, a paramedic descended 12 ft into the sewer and carried the hypothermic, bruised, and sewage-covered Collins to the surface.

Collins was then whisked to St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City by a flight-for-life helicopter. Medical personnel were also concerned that Collins may have swallowed or breathed in raw sewage.

Raymore Director of Public Works, Michael Krass, says that the city’s sewage pumps flush the sewer automatically when water reaches a specified level in a holding area.

Krass says that the city wasn’t notified that a crew would be working in the sewer on the 12th, so the pumps were allowed to run normally. Collins was working near where a pump-fed 24-in.-dia force main sewer empties into the slightly larger gravity-operated sewer line.

As soon as rescuers informed the city of the accident, operators shut off the pumps, says Krass.

According to Krass, engineers estimate that the sewage was flowing at three to four miles per hour. At a 3,500-gpm flow-rate, the sewer line would would have been one-third to one-half full as Collins was swept along, he says.

OSHA declined to comment on its ongoing investigation of the accident.

Rosetta Construction also declined to talk with Engineering News-Record.

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