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Keynote Speaker, Eric Giguere – Safety Awareness Solutions

As I left for work on the morning of October 4th, 2002, little was different in my daily routine other than the wedding ring I had now been wearing for just six days. In my current position as a laborer, I was installing water lines in a rural setting. It was a difficult job, but I felt that my hard work was well-rewarded with a decent hourly wage. At just 27 years old, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment to know that I could provide for both my new wife and myself. I went to work that day thinking it was a day like any other. But things changed quickly later that afternoon.

Working in a trench roughly six and a half feet deep, I crouched down to fix a pipe our crew had been laying. Without warning, the sides of the trench suddenly collapsed, completely burying me. I felt crushed under the weight of some 2,000 pounds of dirt. Immediately, panic set in as I fully grasped what had just happened. Panic soon gave way to fear, as I realized the breaths I was taking were becoming more labored. My fear soon subsided, replaced with a sense of warmth and well-being. As my concern with the situation lessened, I felt even more at ease, I was dying.

Hearing my screams, the remainder of the five-man crew on site discovered that the trench had collapsed on me. They had difficult decisions to make right away. Use the machine and take a chance of hitting me with the bucket or to dig by hand and take a chance at not getting to me in time. Our backhoe operator decided to remove the top two feet of soil mechanically, but the rest of the digging had to be carefully done by hand to avoid possibly injuring me further. Roughly ten minutes later, I was finally uncovered, but completely blue and showing no signs of life. My coworker immediately began CPR to resuscitate me, even though I was still partially buried. When the ambulance arrived, they continued CPR and eventually evacuated me by helicopter to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY.

After an urgent phone call from my co-worker; my wife, family, and friends quickly gathered at the hospital, where doctors informed them that despite their best efforts, I may not live, and if I did, I would likely have severe brain damage from lack of oxygen. One by one, loved ones filed into my hospital room to pay what they thought would be their last respects. At the same time that my family members were comforting my distraught wife, a delivery was being made to the now vacant job site where the accident had occurred. The contractor I was employed by was finally dropping off a trench box for worker safety that was not previously available to us. It was approximately 4pm, the same time I was supposed to be leaving for my honeymoon.