The man partially buried at the bottom of a 15-foot trench remains in the hospital in serious condition.
But Danny Russu didn't break any bones when the side of the trench collapsed, burying him in dirt up to his shoulders, according to his boss, who said the young man has pulled muscles.
"We went in to see him and the first thing he said when he saw Ryan and Brad was, ‘my heroes,'" said Bird, the owner of Apollo Drain & Rooter.
Russu was part of a three-man crew replacing a broken sewer main at a home on SW Bowmont Monday morning.
Russu was at the bottom of the trench when one side caved in, covering him with dirt. His was lying face down in the dirt, unable to lift his head.
A co-worker named Brad jumped into the trench to help Ryan Bird, who was standing in the trench when the cave-in happened, clear the dirt away from Russu's face, chest and back so he could breathe.
"You're okay buddy," one of the men is heard telling Russu in the background of a 911 call.
"Okay, now they've got his head out of the dirt," the homeowner calling 911 tells the operator. "The man down in the hole says he's breathing."
Seconds later, Russu is heard yelling, "Get off my legs! Don't push on them please."
Russu was still buried up to his waist when crews from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and Portland Fire took over the challenging task of freeing the man while preventing another cave in.
Firefighters pulled Russu from the trench using a harness and rope system after four hours.
"I think he has a guardian angel if some people believe in that," said Scott Bird. "He was very lucky. He was lucky that he had a couple of guys who were with him who were trained in safety."
Bird believes heavy rainfall or leaking from the broken sewer pipe may have caused a void behind the trench that led to the cave in.
He said they found no problems with the equipment used to shore the trench Monday.
OSHA is investigating the accident. A spokeswoman said the investigation could take months to complete.
OSHA has no records of accidents at Apollo Drain & Rooter, a spokeswoman said.
A May 2013 inspection at the Apollo Drain & Rooter shop in Gresham turned up three violations: a guard was left off a bench grinder, an extension cord was being used improperly and the company was not keeping records of monthly fire extinguisher inspections.
An inspector conducted a surprise visit at a job site a few days later and found no violations.
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322 Shipyard Boulevard