Worker trapped under 5 tons of steel: ‘Everything went black’

André Griffin recounts the steel collapse that left him severely injured. (Nov. 13, 2015)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD)— A man pinned under tons of steel beams says there were times he wasn’t sure he was going to make it out alive.

24 Hour News 8 spoke with André Griffin from a hospital Friday, three weeks after the incident at Steel Supply & Engineering in Grand Rapids.

“I’ve been hearing it for the last three weeks – ‘You’re lucky.’ And I believe that,” said Griffin.

“EVERYTHING WENT BLACK”

Griffin was alone, working between rows of steel I-beams on Oct. 27 when he said he heard a shuffling noise behind him.

“As I turned around, next thing I know, everything went black.” says Griffin.

When he came to, Griffin’s back was pinned against a stack of large, unstable beams. His legs, stomach and chest were trapped under other beams.

André Griffin recounts the accident that left him hospitalized for three weeks. (Nov. 13, 2015)
André Griffin recounts the accident that left him hospitalized for three weeks. (Nov. 13, 2015)

“I knew I was in trouble.  At that point, I had started to panic,” said Griffin.

“I was facing upright like I would be sitting in a chair position, with my feet backwards, under beams,” described Griffin.

Griffin was seriously injured and no one knew where he was.

With his free right hand, Griffin was able reach his cell phone and call 911.

“Please help me,” he pleaded with the dispatcher. “I work in a warehouse where all sorts of beams fell on me.”

PAINSTAKING RESCUE

The rescue was time-consuming. Dispatchers had pinpoint where Griffin’s location. Once crews arrived, they had to figure out where he was on the site.

Griffin was able to yell for rescuers despite suffering two collapsed lungs.

“We have officers inside the building right now looking for you. Keep being loud,” the dispatcher told Griffin over his phone.

Griffin did, and a rescuer eventually found him.

“If this beam falls, then this will be the one that I’ll be done in by,” said Griffin.

Emergency crews on the scene of a southeast-side plant where steel beams fell on a worker. (Oct. 27, 2015)
Emergency crews on the scene of a southeast-side plant where steel beams fell on a worker. (Oct. 27, 2015)

So dozens of firefighters began the delicate, painstaking task of removing each beam.

But his problems were far from over. Griffin was trapped under five tons of unstable beams, including one which loomed right over his head.

“If this beam falls, then this will be the one. I’ll be done in by that one,” Griffin recounted his thoughts.

One false move on the pile of beams, and they could all come crashing down.

About an hour after firefighters located Griffin, he was finally free.

LONG RECOVERY

Griffin spent three weeks in the hospital, recovering from many injuries, including collapsed lungs, a severed finger and blindness in one eye.

Among his visitors were some of the Grand Rapids firefighters who helped rescue him.

André Griffin hugs a nurse as he leaves Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Friday, Nov. 13, 15.
André Griffin hugs a nurse as he leaves Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Friday, Nov. 13, 15.

“Coming that close to losing your life, you know it’s just like I’ve been reborn all over again.  Every day, I wake up now like it’s a new day,” Griffin said.

“I would truly, truly like to meet each and every last one of them and personally thank them for saving my life,” Griffin said.

The battered and bruised Griffin finally left Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Friday, with a new appreciation for life.

“You never know when your last day could be your last day,” he said.

Griffin didn’t want to speculate as to what caused the beam collapse. The state is investigating the incident.

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