(La Porte, IN) - A man buried alive in La Porte last week is doing so well in his recovery he expects to return to work later this month.
Brandon Watkins, 40, was seriously injured while being dug out but didn't mind knowing the outcome could have been much worse.
"When you face death, it kind of gives you a new perspective on life," he said.
Watkins, on September 30th, was part of a crew boring underneath the ground in the 200 block of Park Street in downtown LaPorte when the drill bit snapped about 10 feet below the surface. The workers used a backhoe to dig a trench to try and recover the broken bit.
Watkins said he jumped in to see if he could grab the bit and determine if there were any water and sewer lines to avoid once they resumed drilling parallel to the surface. The trench walls collapsed, though, covering Watkins in dirt more than a foot above his head.
Watkins said he began screaming but tried to stay calm in what seemed like a grave since he could breathe and could hear coworkers coming to his rescue.
"I knew up there they was going to find me," he said.
The backhoe removed the first scoops of dirt. Watkins said he began screaming again when the teeth of the metal bucket began tearing into the skin of his back and neck while raising.
He practiced shallow breathing to conserve whatever oxygen was left in the air pockets of the soil and to keep his nerves from becoming unglued.
Watkins said he also thought a lot about his two teenage daughters and girlfriend while encapsulated. He estimated more than a minute went by until he saw the light from a coworker uncovering the dirt from his head.
Eventually, coworkers removed enough of the dirt for him to crawl out of the hole. He then began walking toward an ambulance but collapsed in the street. An ambulance immediately took Watkins to the trauma center at Memorial Hospital in South Bend. He was released the next day.
Watkins said the scrape on his back was minor, but close to 30 staples were put in to close a gash on his neck. He feels well enough to go back to work but was told by his boss to take a few weeks off.
Watkins said God must have been watching over him.
"I'm only going to have scars. I didn't lose a limb. My lungs didn't collapse or anything like that. I give praise there," Watkins said.
Watkins works for an Evansville-based firm that was boring for another company to install fiber optics lines beneath the ground throughout the city.