2nd Avenue subway worker in good spirits after trench rescue

March 21, 2013 3:37:41 AM PDT
Rescuers worked for hours to free a construction worker trapped in mud and debris 75 feet below ground at the Second Avenue subway line construction site in upper Manhattan early Wednesday.

The construction worker remained in good condition at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He no doubt had some harrowing moments, but the FDNY was there to pull him out.

"We're just coming from the hospital now," said Barbara Bellacero, the victim's sister.

Bellacero told Eyewitness News the prognosis for her brother is good.

Relatives say Joseph Barrone is exhausted, but in good spirits after the harrowing incident.

"What was the first thing he said to you?" Eyewitness News asked.

"I'm hungry," said Teresa Barrone, the victim's sister-in-law.

Trapped and stuck in the mud, there were times his rescuers feared losing him 75-feet below street level.

For the first time Wednesday, Eyewitness News got a glimpse of the mud covered ropes and plywood thrown-down for support during the rescue effort.

Can you imagine what his mother was going through, watching it on television?

"She was watching and kind of had a sick feeling it was her son," Barrone said.

That would be confirmed later Wednesday morning by the time Joseph Barrone was in the hospital.

"Your first reaction is, 'Is he alive?' then 'How badly is he hurt?' Bellacero said.

Barrone became stuck in mud up to his chest at Second Avenue and East 95th Street around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.

When first responders lifted 51-year-old Barone to the surface, a dangerous and difficult four hour ordeal ended. And, he was alive.

"He was complaining most about the pain to his right leg that was stuck throughout most of the incident," one medic said.

Barone became stuck 75 feet down at the bottom of the giant subway tunnel in the making, sucked into and trapped in a slurry of water and mud to his chest which acted like quicksand.

"The first arriving units, to prevent him from sinking further into the quicksand type soil, they secured a rope around him to prevent him from going down and further," Fire Chief Donald Hayde said.

"Also hypothermia set in quickly, roughly half hour to an hour," added one of the medics.

Hypothermia forced paramedics to feed him intravenous fluids and monitor his heart rate. More than 100 firemen then set into motion a mammoth effort to free Barone.

But in the deep slurry, even firefighters struggled, not only with the rescue effort but their own safety as well.

"We had a few members actually get stuck themselves. We had to actually had to extricate a member from rescue one who was involved in the removal. He actually got pinned in the mud," Hayde said.

He suffered an ankle injury.

As minutes turned to hours, efforts then turned to keeping Barrone calm.

"His spirits remained very well. We talked about sports, his family. I kept holding onto his hand when i could. Covered him with a blanket when possible and tried to cheer him up," a medic said.

It was shortly after 12:30 that Barone was finally freed.

"Later on we used some air pumps we were able to extricate him successfully," MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

MTA officials have begun an investigation and work at the sight has stopped.

"Until the investigation is complete and we can determine what happened and obviously how we can prevent this from happening in the future," Ortiz said.