A construction worker was pulled from a 25-foot trench by firefighters after a rescue effort that went on for more than two hours Tuesday night at a site in Queens where work was supposed to be suspended, according to authorities.
FDNY Chief Richard Portello said the rescue operation in Kew Gardens was lengthy because it was a "very, very tight spot."
The 36-year-old worker's brother -- who is also a construction worker there -- told NBC 4 New York he was working in the hole when it suddenly collapsed on top of him.
The brother, Miguel Castellon, said he initially tried to dig out the victim, Marco Castellon, but quickly realized he had to call for help.
By the time firefighters arrived, Marco Castellon was waist-deep in mud.
Firefighters worked carefully and deliberately to pull him out, first using a Con Edison vacuum truck to suck out the dirt, officials said. They then put a rope around him "to kind of hold him up so that as we dig, he doesn't slouch down," and lifted him up little by little, said Portello.
Marco Castellon was in some pain during the operation, according to the fire chief.
"He was a little cold, and we kept giving him encouragement, telling him, 'We'll get you out, it's just going to take a little time,'" said Portello.
Rescuers were also worried about a condition called crush syndrome, a potentially deadly buildup of potassium in the body. They had to stop digging periodically so that a rescue paramedic could go down the hole and treat him.
Paramedic Greg Brady said Castellon seemed alert and oriented, though he complained of leg pain.
Castellon was taken to Jamaica Hospital, where he was listed in serious but stable condition. He is expected to be OK.
A spokesman for the Department of Buildings said workers had been excavating at the site in violation of a stop-work order.
"Inspectors have determined workers had failed to install proper shoring during this work, and this likely contributed to the collapse," said the spokesman, Tony Sclafani.
Neighbors said they've been complaining about the site for the last year.
"We've been asking them to put a stop-work order," said Ido Tuchman. "We've been filming them violating the stop-work order."