Man Crushed While Tearing Down Storage Tank in Ferndale

Man Crushed While Tearing Down Storage Tank in Ferndale

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 4, 2016)

Ferndale, MI –  A demolition worker is hospitalized after an industrial-sized storage tank buckled and pinned him between the tank and a tank that was next to it.  The accident happened at a vacant Polar Chemical site at Wolcott and Lewiston in Ferndale. The lot is being demolished by Huntington Machinery, a company that previously reported being talks to buy the property once it is cleared to be a home for their demolition equipment.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was still en route as of noon on Tuesday, and they will have the final say as far as reporting the incident.  However, Ferndale Fire Chief Kevin Sullivan confirmed that a man in his late 20’s had been seriously injured.

“He was working suspended from a chain between the two tanks, and the other guy was working on the other side.  They were cutting out a notch from the bottom, the way you would when you cut down a tree.  The man who was injured was in the pinch point.  Whenever you’re on a job site you need to know where things will go when they move so you aren’t caught in a pinch point like he was.  The tank buckled and bowed outward, and he was pushed into the other tank and trapped.”

The man had been crushed at the abdomen between the metal walls of the tanks, high enough up that his feet did not touch the ground.

“His co worker reacted quickly, and if he lives, his quick thinking saved his coworker’s life,” Chief Sullivan said.  “He jumped in the the back hoe and used it to lift the tank back up and relieve the pressure.”

Sullivan said the man then fell, but was caught by his clothing on a pipe that had been sticking up out of the ground.  He just missed being impaled.   The co-worker pulled him off the pipe and made him comfortable on the ground until the ambulance came.

The extent of injuries is not known, but rescue workers were able to stabilize the man and transport him to Beaumont Hospital.

The tank remains precariously propped up by the backhoe, creaking with pressure.  Firefighters left plenty of space when they strung their caution tape, expecting that at some point it will fall, and the backhoe could possibly move too.  Sullivan said his department would secure the area, but not disturb the scene unless any further emergencies happened.  He anticipated that at the end of the investigation the tank would need to be stabilized, most likely by an outside company.

This is not the first time the Ferndale Fire Department has been called to the job site.  On July 23 another tank had caught fire during the demolition process.  The tanks once held oil, water or other chemicals, but had long ago been rinsed out and left until cleanup began this year.  The tank that pinned the worker was labeled “Water Process.”

This story will be updated as more info becomes available.

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