WYOMING, Mich. – Law enforcement officials used a backhoe to free a man who became stuck for hours inside a storm sewer pipe after he fled from police officers when they tried talking with him.
The man was pulled out Tuesday evening after spending about seven hours inside the drainage system in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.
Authorities had suspected he might have been wanted in connection with a Tampa, Fla., slaying but they said Wednesday he was not.
Officials said he was suffering from exposure, incoherent and unable to walk on his own. He was barely able to move by the time police freed him from the pipe during the cold evening.
"It was dark down there. He was literally feeling his way with his hands," Grand Rapids police Lt. Ralph Mason told The Grand Rapids Press.
He said the drainage pipes varied in diameter from 24 to 42 inches.
The manhunt started at a turkey factory in Grand Rapids near the Wyoming border.
A team made up of local FBI agents, Grand Rapids police officers and Kent County sheriff's deputies responded to a tip that a Florida murder suspect might be working at the factory.
When they tried to talk with the man, he fled and jumped into a nearby creek. Witnesses told police they saw a man cross the creek and go into a drainage pipe.
Michigan State Police troopers removed manhole covers and searched through the underground tunnels. The troopers halted their underground search after finding heavy muck, roots and debris blocking their way.
More officers were brought in, as well as a Wyoming engineer who helped determine the layout of the underground pipe system before digging down and extracting the man.
"They're really old pipes. There is not a lot of room to breathe," Mason said.