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Team work frees trapped child
Thursday 4 January 2018 – 4:00 PM

Inter-agency cooperation is being praised as the reason behind an eight year old boy surviving more than four hours trapped in a collapsed trench.

Department of Fire and Emergency Service (DFES) career firefighters and St John Ambulance (SJA) paramedics arrived at a Jandabup property around 3pm on Sunday November 19 to find Riley covered in sand up to his neck.

Crews began immediately working to provide protection to ensure more sand didn’t cave in.

They were joined by the Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team who assessed the unstable area before starting to shore up the walls of the trench.

USAR Incident Controller Nigel Elliott said the loose dry soil meant any movement around the site could risk further collapse.

“The site was so unstable, Riley was stuck at the apex of the trench so it was like a funnel. Any movement just sent more and more sand on top of him,” Nigel said.

“It would have to be the most technically difficult incident I’ve ever had to deal with from a management perspective.”

The USAR team has specialist trained capability to locate and remove people who have been trapped by buildings, landfalls or slippages. The team acquired state of the art extraction equipment in July 2016 – this is the first incident they’ve used it in where a human life was at risk.

Nigel said it was touch and go with further collapses throughout the attempted rescue.

“There was six tonnes of sand sitting on the edge of the trench and I was conscious the entire time that it could come down on everyone working in the hole.”

Local SES volunteers provided essential lighting and assisted career Fire and Rescue to form a human chain to carry Riley out of the trench once freed, while the SJA paramedics administered vital medical care, and the RAC Rescue helicopter took him to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

 “I cannot overstate how hard everyone worked. We’ve built strong relationships with these other agencies especially St John’s,” said Nigel.

“When we work well together, that’s when things go right – that’s when we save lives,” agrees USAR Officer and Senior Firefighter Joshua Caddy.

 “It was a large emotional investment by everyone there. Every single person put in a huge effort,” he said.

Joshua spent several hours in the trench and said eight year old Riley handled it as well as could be expected.

“He kept calling for ‘Snow’ his teddy bear, he couldn’t hold it, so whoever was in the trench with him would wear Snow strapped to their harness.”

Riley spent the night in hospital with minor injuries and was well enough to go home the next day.