Plumber rescued after 2-hour underground search at SFO catering facility

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Fire crews and police were called out to locate a plumber who passed out while he and his partner worked on an underground sewer project near SFO. (KGO-TV)

A man was rescued Saturday evening after being trapped under a catering facility near San Francisco International Airport.

Fire crews and police from several cities were called out to locate a plumber who passed out while he and his partner worked on an underground sewer project at Gate Gourmet, a company that caters for about 70 percent of the airlines.

"They had a concrete cutting device that had emitted fumes that caused them to lose consciousness," explains Russell Mackey, the SFO duty manager.



He says the coworker initially tried to drag his partner out, but when he started feeling dizzy, he got out alone and called 911.

But when crews went in, they couldn't find the man. He regained consciousness and was trying to find an exit, and didn't have a cell phone or walkie talkie to contact anyone.

Airport officials say the two story building, who is located near SFO air space, is just as large underground as it as above ground. Some areas are so narrow, crews had to crawl, which is why the search took about two hours.


"They came around a corner and he was moving towards them," says Mackey.

The man was immediately transported to a local hospital with possible injuries.

The initial call from 911 dispatch was of a carbon monoxide explosion and entrapment at the airport, which triggered such a huge response.

"We didn't fully understand exactly what was going underneath the building. So we had a lot of hazmat and that's out of an abundance of caution. That's why you see the multiple units out here, just in case this had turned into something bigger," says Mackey, especially given the extra traffic at SFO due to the holiday travel.

Airport officials say air quality was never issue, so no need for evacuations. And it didn't impact any flights in or out of SFO.

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