Firefighters save two men trapped in stormwater pipe

City firefighters, along with other private and rescue services, rescued two men who had become trapped in a stormwater pipe near Mitchell’s Plain.

City of Cape Town firefighters, along with other private and rescue services, rescued two men who had become trapped in a stormwater pipe while doing maintenance work.

The men, who work for a private contractor, were overcome by hazardous vapours and collapsed, said JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security.

The firefighters responded to a confined space emergency before 4pm on Tuesday November 30, under the Weltevreden Bridge across the R300, near Mitchell’s Plain.

They called for the technical confined space rescue team from Goodwood to assist Metro Emergency Medical Services and were joined by Metro ambulance staff; law enforcement, traffic services and SAPS officers; as well as a private ambulance service.

The stormwater pipe the men were saved from.

Goodwood station commander Warren Sam took over as the incident commander and immediately enforced a confined space rescue system. The scene was cleared, only authorised personnel were allowed, a clear line of sight to the manhole opening was created and a disciplined communication system was maintained.

The rescue operation under way.

“Gas reading showed oxygen levels were only acceptable when fresh air was being pumped in through the manhole. Without it, the oxygen level dropped rapidly and this was a concern. This meant they had to do a gas reading every five minutes, increasing the pressure on what was already a tense situation,” said Mr Smith.

He said the rescuer was wearing a suit which includes a breathing mask. The oxygen levels were checked before and throughout the rescue. The policy on the gear the contractors used are prescribed by the National Occupational Health and Safety Act, said Mr Smith.

Metro Rescue set up a quadpod with rope systems for a high anchor point above the opening.

City firefighters assisted with additional rope work for the hauling and lowering of the rescuer and patients, he said.

Both patients were in critical condition and taken to Vincent Pallotti Hospital.

“I am proud of our firefighters who took control of the situation to ensure everyone involved were safe. Throughout the rescue, it was the contractor who ensured fresh air which maintained the survival oxygen level. I commend all on scene for their teamwork and dedication which ensured a successful rescue,” said Mr Smith.