BELL, Calif. -- A 50-year-old man was trapped under tons of sand and mud when the ground gave way under him at a drilling site south of Los Angeles where he was working, Los Angeles County fire officials said yesterday.
Officials still held out some hope that Ken Stott of San Bernardino might still be alive hours after he was buried by soil in the freak accident at a Southern California Water Co. plant site. Mr. Stott was there drilling a new well.
"We're treating it as if he is still alive," said Fire Department Capt. Bob Grafton as 35 rescue crew members attempted to dig Mr. Stott out.
"However, progress is slow," Captain Grafton said, noting that rescuers had to work slowly. "The soil here is very unstable."
To reach Mr. Stott, tractors had to dig an "access trench 25 to 30 feet below ground level," Captain Grafton said, a process that was expected to last into the night.
Investigators from both the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office were at the scene and said that the accident was under investigation for possible safety violations.
According to officials and one witness, Mr. Stott dug a 10- to 12-foot hole with a backhoe. But when he went down into the opening, the soil dropped away, and he sank from view.