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Rescuers dug with bare hands to save buried worker Callum Osborne after Swalecliffe trench collapse, inquest told

Callum Osborne

by Mary Louis

Harrowing details about how a dad-to-be was buried alive after a trench collapsed on him at a building site have been heard at an inquest.

Groundworker Callum Osborne, 24, of City Wall Avenue, Canterbury, was killed when he was engulfed by earth on the site in Bridgefield Road, Swalecliffe.

A hearing heard how desperate attempts were made to save Mr Osborne, pictured left, who had been working on pipework in the trench on April 7 last year.

Emergency crews dug with their bare hands as they tried to free him from the mud, but he was pronounced dead more than an hour after the trench collapsed.

Ambulance crew member Jonathan Hope was the first member of the emergency services at the scene, arriving just before 1pm.

He was directed to the 100ft-long trench, estimating it had been about 8ft deep at the end he was at.

He said: "I could see most of the trench. It had collapsed in one section."

Mr Hope jumped into the hole and started digging with his hands. All he had been able to see of Mr Osborne was a small part of a reflective workman's jacket. He could not see any part of his head.

Within a few minutes, he was joined by fire and ambulance crew members.

He had continued to dig for five to 10 minutes. The first part of Mr Osborne uncovered was his ear. Mr Hope described it as "very purple due to lack of oxygen".

"when you are down a hole and you start thinking about its collapse and think it could collapse again, your senses are very heightened..." – rescue worker jonathan hope

Fire crews had asked if they could use shovels to dig initially, which Mr Hope had advised against for fear of injuring Mr Osborne.

Rescuers started digging to release him from the other side once he had been found.

When Mr Osborne's head had been freed they used a mask to try and ventilate him.

They then freed his chest and pelvis, so laid him on his back against the side of the trench and started CPR.

Mr Hope had heard noises and been aware of bits dropping down into the trench, but had not known if they were from the sides of the trench or the banks piled alongside at the top.

When he had stood upright on some of the collapsed soil, the trench had reached just below his eye level.

Mr Hope said: "I thought this is not very clever. When you are down a hole and you start thinking about its collapse and think it could collapse again, your senses are very heightened."

The scene in Bridgefield Road near the junction of Kemp Road as the emergency services deal with the trench collapse.

Emergency services at the scene deal with the trench collapse

The trench had been about 2ft wide. Mr Hope said at no time had Mr Osborne made any noise or shown any signs of life.

When the air ambulance arrived 20 minutes later, he had climbed out and been replaced by a colleague. By that stage he had been totally exhausted.

The soil had been "very heavy, clay type" and was heaped in banks, 2ft to 3ft high, on either side of the trench above normal ground level.

It was possible to see one side further down the trench was falling in.

In a statement made on April 18 last year, Mr Hope had recalled a 3ft spirit level being found between Mr Osborne's legs, which had been pulled out by one of the firefighters.

Mr Hope and his fellow crew member acting clinical team leader Jason Moat were honoured for their bravery by the ambulance trust earlier this year.

At the inquest, Mr Osborne's partner Colette and father personally thanked him for his efforts.

The inquest continues.

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