GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Fire Department’s Technical Rescue team responded to two calls Friday. The first call was an SUV that slammed through part of Shawmut Hills Elementary.
“Yesterday was our technical rescue training,” said Captain Matt Keusch. “So, we actually trained on what we had happen up at Shawmut elementary school.” Kuesch said the crews train once a month on technical rescues. He didn’t expect that just hours later the training they completed would be put into use.
“The car was pulled out and they shored that building up and made it safe so that it didn’t collapse any further,” Keusch said. Shawmut Hills Elementary School will be open on Monday, according to Grand Rapids Public Schools.
The technical rescue team typically responds to six calls each year. However, on Friday the team received two. The second call was fatal.
According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, a call for two men buried alive in Lowell Township came in around 8:30 Friday night. Several neighboring fire departments responded, including Grand Rapids’ and Kentwood’s technical teams. The ditch where the two men were found was about 14 feet deep.
“Pretty sandy soil it sounds like,” Keusch said. “We call it a spill pile, which is the dirt they dug or excavated out. That was on the ledge or the lip of the trench, which makes it even more dangerous because you have all of that weight sitting there and it can cave in. It sounds like that’s what happened.”
Support panels are equipped on several Grand Rapids firetrucks. They are used to secure the trench and protect from additional cave ins. “We carry shores, which are big panels. We’ll set those up [to make] what’s called a trench box,” Keusch said.
Keusch added that once the call went from rescue to a recovery effort, crews solemnly slowed down. “It’s very dangerous… So when we know it’s a recovery, we’re going to take a little more time to make sure we’re doing it as safe as possible.”