Untrained Plumber’s First Day Almost Ends in Tragedy

Text from boss says to break sewer pipe that was actually a gas line
Untrained Plumber’s First Day Almost Ends in Tragedy
Newby plumber told to break sewer pipe that was a gas line. (Photos courtesy KOIN 6 News)

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David Hidalgo’s first day on the job almost ended in tragedy when he was told by his boss to “break a pipe.”

Joel Kinney had called Rooter Rite Plumbing & Drain Cleaning Services in August to fix a blocked sewage line at his Oregon home.

“They came out, were just supposed to run a snake down it and unplug it,” Kinney told KOIN 6 News in Portland. “They told us they kept breaking blades, that there was some separation in the pipe, there were all sorts of problems.”

Hidalgo, who was hired to work for Rooter Rite through Craigslist, was left alone at Kinney’s home and received a text from the owner of the plumbing company, Mike Lima, to dig down to the sewer line.

“When I get down to the green pipe I give him a call and say … ‘What do I do from there?'” Hidalgo told KOIN 6 News. “And he says, ‘Grab the jackhammer and break it.'”

Hidalgo suspected something was wrong and told Kinney he suspected a scam.

“I’m eating lunch and he knocks on my door and says, ‘Hey bro, can I talk to you?’ and he brings me out and he says, ‘I think they’re scamming you,'” Kinney said. “I’m like, what are you talking about? (He said), ‘He told me to break your pipe.'”

When Kinney looked closer, he realized the pipe Hidalgo was asked to break was a gas line.

“With all the sparks from this river rock, he would have been vaporized,” Kinney said.

Chleo Lima, who owns Rooter Rite Plumbing with her husband, said Hidalgo wasn’t required to go through any form of training before going out on the job.

“When he applied for the position, there are questions that are asked,” she told KOIN 6 News. “He informed us he was knowledgeable to do the work.”

Rooter Rite’s website says its expert plumbers are ready and waiting to respond to plumbing needs large and small 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no extra fees for night, weekend or even holiday service.

“We are drain cleaning masters! Our plumbers are highly experienced in drain cleaning, and we can clear any type of clog from a kitchen sink plugged with grease to a main sewer line chocked with roots.”

Kinney said he’s grateful Hidalgo, who no longer works for the company, came forward to alert him of the potential danger.

“I can’t thank him enough for stepping up; he’s the hero in this thing.”

The Oregon Construction Contractors Board has since launched an investigation into the case.



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