A veteran electrician with Boston's transit system who was trying to make work conditions safer for others fell into a 30-foot deep shaft between the tracks on Wednesday and was trapped for more than 2 1/2 hours with severe leg injuries.
Ed Rowe, 46, plunged through a thin piece of plywood covering a 2-foot-by-2-foot hole between the tracks at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's elevated Charles/Massachusetts General Hospital trolley station at about 4:30 a.m.
He was pulled from the hollow concrete support column by firefighters at about 7 a.m. and taken to the hospital right across the street with what were described as severe leg injuries.
Rowe was conscious but in "tremendous pain" when he was pulled free, Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.
Gary Dardia and Ballin Wright, the slimmest and smallest members of the department's technical rescue team, descended down the narrow, damp, dark hole that widens to about 4-feet-by-4-feet at the bottom, their path impeded by pipes and a ladder. They said they slipped a harness around Rowe's legs and waist so he could be slowly hauled out.
They tried to move him as little as possible to avoid aggravating his injuries.
"He just kept saying I want out of here," Dardia said.
Rowe, who lives in Haverhill and has been working for the MBTA since he was 18, was turning off the power to the trolley track's electrified third rail so workers could safely work on the nearby Longfellow Bridge's rehabilitation project, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.
"We're happy with the outcome. It could have been a lot worse," he said.
The T suspended trolley service between the Kendall Square stop in Cambridge and Broadway in South Boston during the rescue, busing commuters instead. Service had returned to normal by 8 a.m.
Pesaturo said there are four similar holes covered by wooden planks, and MBTA General Manager Richard Davey has ordered metal plates installed over those. The work will be done overnight after regular Red Line service ends.