A 51-year-old homeless man who fell asleep in an industrial recycle bin suffered two broken legs after being dumped into the back of a trash truck early Thursday in Kansas City.
An Allied Waste Services driver picked up the bin about 2:15 a.m. behind the Family Dollar store at 6827 Longview Road. He told police he noticed that the bin contained cardboard as he emptied it into the truck. He crushed the contents using the truck’s hydraulic cylinders, as he does after every pickup.
As he was driving south on Blue Ridge Boulevard, he heard noises in the back of the truck. He thought the noises were simply racoons, which is common, he told police. But as he arrived at his next trash bin at the Truman Corners shopping center in Grandview, he heard screaming. He got out of the truck and realized a person was yelling from the back of his truck.
He shut off the truck and called 911. Grandview firefighters lowered themselves 6 to 8 feet into the back of the truck through an opening at the top and searched through layers of recyclables for the man.
“He was tucked in there pretty tight,” said Assistant Fire Chief Jim Toone. “It was a one-hour-long rescue.”
Firefighters put the victim on a backboard and attached it to an aerial truck with straps and ropes to lift the backboard out of the truck.
Toone said he wasn’t sure if the victim suffered his injuries from being dropped into the truck by the truck’s forklift or from being crushed.
The victim told police he was sleeping in the trash bin when he heard the trash truck. But before he could escape, he found himself “stuck in the back of the truck in a great deal of pain,” according to a police report.
An ambulance took him to a hospital. Doctors said both of his legs appeared broken. He possibly had additional injuries, doctors said, but was expected to survive.
Trash truck compactors use 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, enough to shatter bottles or snap wooden pallets, said Grandview Police Sgt. Greg Smith.
“He’s very lucky that he wasn’t hurt a lot worse than he was,” Smith said.
Another homeless man survived being crushed in 2007 after a Deffenbaugh Disposal Service trash truck picked up the bin in which he was sleeping, said Deffenbaugh spokesman Tom Coffman. That man screamed to get the driver’s attention.
“It seems like something like this happens in this market every few years,” Coffman said. “It’s kind of particular to those front loader trucks because the drivers can’t see what’s in there.”
Homeless people who sleep near trash bins for cover from weather also have been hurt when trucks dropped the trash bins back in place, Coffman said. That’s more common than the kind of accident that occurred Thursday, he said.
“When the bins are set down abruptly, it can smash arms and legs,” he said. “It’s like a trashman’s worst nightmare.”