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Man Rescued After Getting Trapped In Hole

(credit: CBS) Reg Chapman
Reg Chapman joined WCCO-TV in May of 2009. He came to WCCO fr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An attempt to fix a leaky foundation turned into a dramatic rescue in Minneapolis, as a man digging a 12-foot hole was trapped by heavy, wet clay.

Jeff Zajac was pinned against the foundation of a home near Lake Nokomis, and buried up to his neck in dirt.

His father, Steve Zajac, was there — but he called for help when he noticed his son was having trouble breathing.

Jeff says he’s thankful his girlfriend made him take his Dad along to watch his back, just in case something went wrong.

“He was just doing some work on the side of the house for leakage,” Steve said.

He watched as the dirt removed from the foundation slipped back into the hole from which it came, with his son inside.

“All of a sudden, you know, it seems like a heavy, wet clay. It just started caving in on him and it went up to his neck. I just went down and took the dirt and kind of pulled it away, you know, make sure it’s clear,” Steve said. “I said, ‘Are you hurting anywhere?’ He said, ‘No, but I can’t move anything.'”

The heavy clay made it hard for Jeff to breathe. His dad called 911. He says fire and emergency crews were there within minutes and immediately jumped into the hole to help Jeff.

“I was pinned against the foundation … then my father jumped in,” Jeff said. “At first, they just dug around here to clear up so I could breathe a little bit better, and then from there it was just stabilizing the walls so that nothing else caved in on us.”

Specialized crews used air bags and strong backs — or huge chunks of plywood — to keep the hole from collapsing on Jeff and those working to set him free.

Within minutes, Jeff was lifted out of the hole. He walked to an awaiting stretcher on his own. His father was there to give him a high five.

Jeff says he can’t thank crews enough for pulling him to safety. He especially wants to thank the first one on the scene. He says that crew member did not think about himself, and just jumped in immediately and began to dig him out.

The Zajacs say you should never take on projects that involve digging underneath a house or climbing on top of one alone.

Jeff says if his Dad was not there, it could have been a different outcome.

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