A construction worker who was rescued after being trapped waist-deep in mud for four hours at a Second Avenue subway construction site 75 feet below ground has swelling in his ankles but is able to walk on his own, his wife told NBC 4 New York.
Candida Barone said her 50-year-old husband, Joseph, will spend the night at the hospital, but is in "good" condition. She said he was trying to secure an overhead crane at the site when he fell into a pit and became trapped Tuesday night.
FDNY officials said the rescue in the muck, which one described as being like quicksand, was among the most difficult in recent memory.
Rescuers used a Con Edison industrial vacuum, pulleys and plywood to get him out. An FDNY chaplain was also on hand to pray with Barone.
"In my 36 years of the Fire Department, this was the most difficult, technical rescue operation I've ever been involved in," said FDNY Battalion Chief Donald Hayde.
FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said "it took some of our top people in our special operations command with vast amount of knowledge and technical rescue to put all those skills into play."
"It it wasn't for them," he added, "that worker would have surely perished."
FDNY Lt. Rafael Goyenechea, who spent time with Barone, said: "His spirits remained very well, he talked about sports, his family, everything. I kept holding onto his hand when I could, covering him with blankets when possible to cheer him up."
Barone has worked in construction for almost 30 years and he was two months on the job in the Second Avenue subway tunnel. Neighbors in his Lyndhurst, N.J. community say he's well-loved and call him "the best neighbor ever."
"I'm just glad he's OK," said Pat Scott.
Three firefighters suffered injuries that were not life-threatening during the complicated rescue operation. Cassano said the injuries were broken bones and hypothermia.
Hypothermia was also a concern for Barone as rescuers toiled for four hours to free him. He was carried out on a stretcher at around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Work was suspended in the area the day after the accident. Construction will resume Thursday, and workers will have to wear harnesses, according to an MTA spokesman. Areas without any support underneath will be marked off with cones near the site of the accident.
In August, a controlled blast at the Second Avenue construction site sent rocks flying into the streets when steel plates covering the blast failed.