Trench collapse victim thanks firefighter ‘angels’

Salvador Hernandez at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. (Nov. 11, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who survived a northeast Grand Rapids trench collapse that killed his friend is crediting rescuers with saving his life.

Salvador Hernandez suffered nearly a dozen bone fractures after a porch wall collapsed into a trench that he was working in. Oscar Rocha Alonso died in the collapse, but firefighters were able to rescue Hernandez.

An undated courtesy photo of Oscar Rocha Alonso.
(An undated courtesy photo of Oscar Rocha Alonso.)

Rocha Alonso and Hernandez were helping a friend with a sewer line repair. The trench was already dug and the pair had been working in it for about a half hour when the collapse happened.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Hernandez told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday, speaking in Spanish. “I remember [firefighters] were trying to tell me that they were trying to get me out as soon as possible.”

Hernandez said he was able to signal someone in the area to call 911. It took firefighters about an hour and 15 minutes to free Hernandez and before he was rushed to a Grand Rapids hospital.

Days later, he was transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital for continued care. At Mary Free Bed on Wednesday, he said Saturday’s ordeal taught him a lesson and he hopes others learn from it, too.

“Be more careful. Be grateful to God. When you wake up, try to live your life the best you can and be closer to your loved ones,” Hernandez said.

Salvador Hernandez and his wife Gina at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. (Nov. 11, 2015)
(Hernandez and his wife Gina Beltran at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.)

Hernandez’ wife, Gina Beltran, said she got word of the emergency after Hernandez was freed. She said she struggles with mixed emotions. She is glad that her husband was rescued but saddened that they have lost a best friend.

“Half of my body is happy that I have my husband here, but the other half is broken ’cause I’m not going to see my friend no more,” Beltran said. “He was like a brother to me.”

Beltran and Hernandez are now both hoping that enough money can be raised to help send Rocha Alonso’s remains to Mexico so he can be buried near his loved ones. The family said it would cost about $8,000 to transport his body. A GoFundMe account has been started to assist in the effort.

But most of all, Hernandez and his wife wanted to thank those involved with Saturday’s rescue. Grand Rapids firefighters and Walker’s Technical Rescue handled the operation.

“I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to compensate them because what they did for me is priceless. I don’t know how there are people who risk their lives to save others,” Hernandez said.

“Thank you so much for all the angels that helped me,” he added in English.



GoFundMe to send Rocha Alonso’s remains to Mexico

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