Rescued Subway Worker Sounds Pretty Good, Considering Hellish Ordeal

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A worker, with black fire helmet at left inside a construction transport bucket, is rescued from an MTA subway construction project in New York early Wednesday, March 20, 2013 after being trapped up to his chest in debris for several hours. Fire officials say he is awake and conscious and is being evaluated at a local hospital. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The Second Avenue subway worker who spent hours stuck in some very sticky and cold mud on Tuesday night "suffered severe bruising and hypothermia," the New York Post reports, but now he's in a good mood and looking forward to a cold one, a nap, and a game of golf. That's all fine, but when you start reading about the specifics of his ordeal, his relatively good condition starts to sound altogether amazing. Joseph Barone, 51, spent four hours buried up to his chest in "frigid water mixed with mud to create what rescuers said could have quickly turned into a slushy tomb," as the New York Times describes it. And rescuers didn't really know how they were going to get him out.

"I was definitely worried throughout about possible drowning," one told the Times. They had to figure out how to free him from "mud so thick and viscous that it simply could not be cleared away." Barone wasn't wearing a harness when he stepped off a platform over the muck to get out of the way of a crane, the Post and DNAinfo report. The first thing rescuers did was to get him secured by ropes so he couldn't sink in any further. A firefighter who also got stuck "pulled a bunch of ligaments" when his colleagues yanked him out, Battalion Chief Donald F. Hayde told The Times.

There was no single, elegant solution to freeing Barone from the mud. Workers used a back hoe to dig a trench nearby to try to drain off some of the mud. They dug around him with their hands, "trying to scoop out two handfuls of muck for each one that seeped back in." They also used a grip hoist to break up some buried plywood that trapped Barone. And they used duct tape to fashion an extra-long hose to a Con Ed vacuum truck to try to suck some of the mud away.

The MTA will now require workers to wear harnesses on the site and to put up cones near sludgy areas, DNAinfo reports. Not to Monday-morning quarterback this thing too hard, but that seems like it would have been a good idea from the start.