Portland man sleeping in refuse nearly crushed

• Bin was connected, moved, dumped and compacted before a driver heard the screams

By Steven DuBois / Associated Press

Published Mar 15, 2014 at 12:01AM

PORTLAND — A man who slept in a bin filled with cardboard suffered serious injuries Friday when he was dumped into the back of a recycling truck, the Portland Police Bureau said.

Liam O’Grady, 27, likely climbed into the dumpster to sleep, Sgt. Pete Simpson said. It’s unknown how many hours he spent in the bin, but he was awakened shortly after 8 a.m.

O’Grady screamed when the compactor was activated, and the truck driver quickly stopped the crusher and ran for help.

Emergency responders went through the cardboard and freed the man. His injuries were initially feared to be life-threatening, but the authorities later said O’Grady will survive.

It’s the second time in less than two years that a man in Portland has been thrown into the back of a truck after falling asleep in a recycling bin. In the first instance, a 27-year-old man suffered minor injuries after opting to sleep in a bin instead of drinking and driving.

Investigators have yet to pinpoint why O’Grady was in the recycling bin, Simpson said. “We suspect alcohol or mental health issues played a part in his decision-making,” the officer said.

The incident happened at the People’s Food Co-op in southeast Portland.

David McMahon, the co-owner of Cloudburst Recycling, said the driver was “severely traumatized” and not available to be interviewed.

It’s the third time his company has discovered a person inside a recycling bin, but the first time someone made it into the hopper of the truck without being discovered, McMahon said.

“We open the lid and look in the container and, of course, it’s a quite a shock if you find somebody sleeping in it,” he said. “In this case, the person had apparently burrowed under the cardboard to stay warm or dry.”

The container was rolled 75 feet and manually hooked up to the rear-load truck.

“Nothing stirred, nothing moved through all of this,” McMahon said.

McMahon said his driver disconnected the container after compressing its contents.

“He hits the compact again — a second time — and starts rolling (the container) away,” he said. “And then he hears a scream.”

The driver stopped the compaction, turned off the truck and ran into the store to holler for someone to call 911. He then climbed into the vehicle’s hopper and spoke to the man while holding his hand, McMahon said.

“He should be given credit for saving this guy’s life,” McMahon said. “I can imagine easily becoming confused and not knowing which way to pull the lever, even though you’ve pulled it hundreds of times — to stop it in action and reverse it.”