By Alex DeMetrick

BETHESDA, Md. (WJZ) — One week ago, the partial collapse of parking garage launched a major rescue effort in Montgomery County. Tapes of the 911 calls  have been released.

Alex DeMetrick reports those first calls paint a vivid picture.

The Westfield Mall in Bethesda turned into a staging ground last Thursday, following a call from construction worker inside a parking garage.

911 Caller: “We need an ambulance down here at Westfield Mall. We got a slab that came down on two guys. They’re stuck under a piece of concrete in a parking garage.”

That huge slab was still showing signs of movement.

911 Operator: “How big is the concrete?”

911 Caller: “Oh, God. It weighs 55,000 pounds.”

That moving concrete with two men trapped beneath it made for a difficult rescue.

“In this type of situation, you can’t lift it because for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we lifted one end it could kick off of the other end and the whole thing could collapse,”  said Assistant Chief Scott Graham, of Montgomery County Fire & Rescue.

It took hours to shore up with construction workers’ lives on the line.

911 Caller: “The precast panel that fell, it’s an unstable area right now. I have everybody out of the area except for the two people that are pinned.”

911 Operator: “You said that structure is unstable at the moment.”

911 Caller: “In that particular area, yes. We were removing one of the pieces of precast concrete on level two, and it slipped off of the shoring tower that was supporting it and then it wedged a person.”

Moments later . . .

911 Operator: “Is he awake?”

911 Caller: “No, he’s not awake.”

911 Operator: “Is he breathing?”

911 Caller: “I cannot tell if he is breathing.”

911 Operator: “What part of their bodies are pinned? Is it entirely their–”

911 Caller: “The one who’s conscious, his arm looks pinned. The other guy who is not conscious his like arm, shoulder and head are wedged.”

911 Operator: “We got help coming, OK?”

911 Caller: “I hear an ambulance now.”

Finally, four hours later, one trapped worker was pronounced dead. The other worker was freed.

Although his injuries were described as serious, he apparently remained conscious through the entire ordeal, including the flight to Shock Trauma.

The accident remains under investigation.


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