Worker dies in flooded tunnel

August 18, 2009 9:10:44 PM PDT
A construction worker in Conroe has died after he was trapped in a flood tunnel under a freeway.According to Conroe police, four people, a construction foreman and three workers, were in a 24-inch diameter tunnel being dug for a water main line under I-45 near Gladstell Road around 3:30pm. A heavy downpour moved through the area at the same time, and the rain water filled the tunnel.

The tunnel, which is still a work in progress, has been dug 140 feet under the freeway.The foreman and two workers were able to escape the flooded tunnel. One worker apparently drowned in the tunnel. Rescue crews located his body about 50 feet in just before 6pm.

"The water came in from everywhere. I guess they said they didn't know where it was coming from and it quickly filled up the hole. Those that could escape managed to get out," said Conroe Fire Department Chief Ken Kreger.

Two workers in a rectangular trench outside the opening did escape, but the worker inside the two-foot tunnel did not. Despite firefighters feverishly working, it took an hour to drain the flooded trench and tunnel. Two hours later, firefighters used a camera to locate the worker 50 feet from the opening. His body was pulled to the surface.

"They had to go in there while they were on breathing air, so we had to have hoses in their because we didn't know what the atmosphere was," said Chief Kreger.

The construction worker was employed by the Boring and Tunnel Company of America who will now be at the center of an investigation.

As for the investigation, two OSHA compliance officers were on the scene. It's not clear if they found any safety violations.

The other workers are reportedly shaken by the experience, but not seriously injured. The identity of the deceased worker has not been released.

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