The victims are employees of People’s Energy and were conducting an underground test at Jackson and Wacker Drive when the Chicago work accident occurred shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday afternoon. They were testing a 20-inch main when a steel pipe slipped and struck both workers, who were in a construction hole across the street from the Willis Tower.
Three ambulances responded to the scene at 1:45 p.m. after reports of workers trapped following an explosion, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Initial reports of a gas explosion were countered by a Peoples Energy representative, who said the employees were using compressed air when the accident happened and that no natural gas was involved.
The Chicago fire department said both employees were critically injured and were transported to Cook County Hospital.
“The two employees were in the performance of their duties, they were testing a pipe and an accident occurred,” Peoples Energy representative Bonnie Johnson told ABC7.
Witnesses at the scene said the fire department apparently extracted the surviving victim quickly but had to work feverishly to extract the worker who was fatally injured after being trapped in the hole.
The surviving victim remained in critical condition at Cook County Hospital.