(Des Moines Register) -- Questions remain after two construction workers were thrown from a boom lift when it was struck by a freight train Monday in West Des Moines.
The incident occurred on the train tracks near Grand Avenue and Interstate Highway 35 around 1:20 p.m. At the time of the collision, the two United Contractors Inc. workers were in the passenger bucket of the lift's articulating arm.
The arm was raised next to the train tracks so the workers could access the underside of the Grand Avenue on-ramp bridge at I-35, officials said. An Iowa Interstate Railroad Train was coming from the west when it struck the arm.
One of the construction workers was thrown about 200 feet and taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. The other managed to grab onto the underside of the bridge and hang on until fire crews lowered him 40 feet to the ground.
"In 27 years, this is one of the strangest calls I've been on," said David Edgar, the assistant chief for West Des Moines Emergency Medical Services.
Members of the high-angle rescue team rushed to the crash site from a fire less than a half-mile away, carrying their equipment part of the way because their truck was blocked in at the fire.
All West Des Moines firefighting crews can respond to high-angle rescues, said West Des Moines Fire Marshal Mike Whitsell. But the firefighters at the station at 5025 Grand Avenue, who responded to the fire and train accident, have specialized training for it.
"This is something you can train for all you want, but once you have to use it, time is not a luxury you have," Whitsell said.
A crane operator from the construction crew lowered a firefighter toward the trapped worker. Unable to see the spot where he needed to move the dangling firefighter, he depended on shouted instructions from firefighters on the ground.
"He got thrown into that situation and did a phenomenal job," Whitsell said.
Luckily the trapped worker already had a harness on, Whitsell said, and fire crews hooked onto it to lower him down. The rescue took about an hour, and the worker was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.
The names and conditions of the two men thrown from the boom have not been released by the construction company. A call to a United Contractors spokesperson was not immediately returned Monday night.
Edgar said no injuries were reported from the crew on the train, which was hauling cargo.
The Iowa Interstate Railroad is investigating the incident, according to a release from the city's emergency services department. An Iowa Interstate Railroad spokesperson did not respond to a phone call Monday night.
If the incident meets certain criteria, such as if damages exceed a set limit or a death occurs, the National Transportation Board will investigate the occurrence, officials said.