The family of a Pell City, Ala., demolition worker is breathing easier today after the demolition of a local landmark, the historic Avondale Mills, nearly turned deadly on Nov. 24.
After detonating explosives failed to bring down a 158-foot-tall smokestack, Tim Phifer, a driver of an excavator, moved closer to the smokestack in hopes of knocking it down with his excavator.
The 2.6 million-pound smokestack came crashing down on top of him, briefly trapping Phifer inside the machine.
A drone flying above captured video of those harrowing moments.
Members of his team instantly rushed in to help, including Phifer’s daughter, Allie Phifer, who was desperately trying to reach him.
“I remember being halfway across the field just looking at him,” his daughter recalled. “I had to stop and I was like, ‘I don’t know if he made it and I can’t make it that much closer.'"
But moments later, one of his team members threw his arm victoriously into the air, giving everyone a thumbs up as Phifer emerged from the rubble.
“I’ve had some stuff go wrong but not like this,” Phifer said.
Despite a couple of scratches and a coating of soot, Phifer is alive and well, thanks to his own quick thinking.
“Stay in the hoe, the cab is made for that thing to turn over on top of it,” he explained. “It was safer inside the cab than coming out of it.”
“God blesses me,” Phifer added.