Firefighters rescue man trapped in bulldozer at Waukegan gypsum facility

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SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Firefighters rescued a man who became trapped in the cab of his bulldozer early Monday when it slid down an embankment at a gypsum processing facility in north suburban Waukegan.

Firefighters responded about 6 a.m. to the National Gypsum complex at 515 SeaHorse Drive along Lake Michigan, according to the Waukegan Fire Department.

The operator, a man in his 60s, became trapped in the cab of the bulldozer when it slid down an embankment and fell over on its side, the department said.

Firefighters faced a difficult task to get the man out of the bulldozer in adverse weather conditions.

The bulldozer was about 250 feet from the nearest access road and in the middle of a 20-foot-wide trench alongside a 40-foot pile of gypsum covering an area about the size of two football fields, Fire Marshall Steven Lenzi said.

Parts of the gypsum pile were frozen, while others were thawing, according to Lenzi. In addition, rain was falling, which led to concerns about stability of the pile as chunks of gypsum the size of concrete blocks broke and fell away.

The man was extricated from the bulldozer and taken to Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan with serious injuries, Lenzi said. He was expected to survive.

Firefighters were at the scene for about an hour and a half, Lenzi said.

“In 24-years on the job I’ve never encountered anything like this,” Lenzi said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was investigating the incident, according to U.S. Department of Labor spokesman Scott Allen.

A representative for North Carolina-based National Gypsum, which specializes in the production of gypsum board, has not responded to a request for comment.