York, Pennsylvania garbage truck driver, Jim Rife had a close call late last month when he heard a moan as he was about to press the button to activate his truck’s trash compactor.
The encounter happened around 5:30 a.m. October 21st at the beginning of Rife’s shift when he heard a man groaning and saying “Hey.”
Rife immediately shut down, got out, and looked to towards the top of the truck to see a man’d head and shoulders making indistinguishable noises. The man called down from the dumpster, asking Rife what he was doing.
Rife replied, “I’m doing my job, what are you doing?” – The man replied that he didn’t know.
In a later interview with the York Daily Record, Rife mentioned that finding someone hurt or even killed in a dumpster has been one of his greatest fears as a garbage truck driver. Over the years, he’s found several people near the containers, but he’d never dumped anyone slumbering inside. Rife always leaves his windows down as a precaution and mentioned that had he not cracked the windows, he may not have heard the man.
Republic Services Operations Supervisor, Scott Englert stated that although it’s rare to find people in dumpsters – homeless people begin searching for shelter as the temperatures drop, and such containers can provide significant protection from the elements.
Rife theorized that the man landed on the floor of the hopper when the dumpster was tipped, because the load was compacted after the dumpster had been emptied. In the event that the man had been standing when the metal wall passed, there’s a chance that he could have been cut in half.
When Rife was preparing to compact the load a second time, he heard the man crying out. Rife immediately called 911, and although the man attempted to climb out of the truck, Rife insisted that he stay put. The driver then climbed to the cab’s roof, and gave the man a flashlight to help him search for his belongings.
First responders soon arrived, and the Fire Department used a ladder to get the man down. He was escorted to an ambulance to be evaluated. Fortunately the man was unhurt, and Rife actually ran into him again earlier this week. The man has enrolled in a 16-week program at a mission house, and Rife gave him a few suggestions of other places he could seek help. Republic has plans to replace the man’s suitcase (which had been stolen since their last meeting) with a bag and some clothes to help him out.
Rife hopes that his event will bring the attention of business owners (with dumpsters) and overall awareness towards this dangerous issue.