Birmingham firefighters heartbroken over hole collapse that claimed the life of 31-year-old man

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- 24th Street Southwest is now collapsing and could be closed for a week.

Firefighters had to remove a large amount of dirt to reach a man trapped underground.

They didn't get to him in time.

Firefighters say the busy road is now unsafe because of the situation. The man was trapped nearly 12 feet underground near some houses.

Firefighters say this was a very dangerous operation for them. Birmingham, Bessemer and Hoover all worked together. The excavation took much longer than expected.

"Somebody's heart is aching like mine."

A terrible tragedy on 24th Street Southwest.

Ester Crumpton and others watched as nearly 60 people including a tunnel rescue team tried to reach a 31-year-old man trapped underground.

C.W. Mardis with Birmingham Fire & Rescue says, "We have oxygen equipment and self contained breathing apparatus and numerous devices and detectors to make sure there are no gas leaks."

Firefighters say the man was doing some plumbing work in a hole and the surrounding ground started to collapse.

Buddy Wilks with Birmingham Fire & Rescue say "They were doing some type of work with an excavator. "The ground gave way while the man was in the hole."

The rescue became challenging for crews. Battalion Chief Buddy Wilks says as they were digging the ground continued to collapse slowing down the process. rain didn't help.

Mardis says "We put plywood and 2 by 4's on all sides to fortify it to prevent further collapse."

After 6 hours, firefighters were able to retrieve the man's body. The situation, leaving many with questions as to how this situation happened.

Ralph Johnson, "I use to be in the plumbing industry and know a lot of times with this being a brand new house, they're probably connecting the sewer and you have to dig deep. I know there's this thing you have to put in the ground, so the ground doesn't collapse on you."

Crumpton says, "I don't know who the young man is but my heart goes out to his family."

ABC 33/40 was unable to find out who the man was working for. However, Wilks say this was not a job for the city. The man's name has not been released.

We'll update this story as we learn more.