Andrea Grassi was reportedly part of a gang planning to rob a bank by digging a tunnel to it

Firefighters rescued a man who became stuck underground in central Rome while digging a tunnel, the Italian capital’s Fire Brigade said in a statement on Friday. The media says he was part of a gang seeking to rob a nearby bank.

“After eight hours of work, the fire brigade extracted, still alive, the man who was trapped due to a collapse which happened during the execution of an underground excavation in Via Innocenzo XI. The causes are being investigated,” the Fire Brigade said in a statement.

The rescue operation attracted the attention of locals and tourists, as it took place not far from the Vatican. Videos on social media show the moment the firefighters finally pulled the man from under the ground, to the applause of onlookers. Andrea Grassi, 34, was hospitalized in San Camillo Hospital in serious condition, but his life is not in danger.

Media reports suggest that the rescued man was part of a gang which planned to take advantage of the quiet summer vacation period by digging a tunnel from rented premises in the city center to the vault of one of the nearby banks, with a view to rob it in mid-August. 

However, their alleged plan failed when, while digging, a piece of asphalt fell and blocked Grassi at a depth of around 6-7 meters, leaving him with no option other than to shout: “Help, please free me.” 

His alleged accomplices managed to get out of the tunnel, but their luck ended there, after they were stopped by the police. Two suspects from Naples were arrested for resisting a public official, and two from Rome, for damage to public property, a police spokesman told AFP.

We do not exclude that they are thieves; it is one of the theories,” he said.

The investigation into the case of what Italian media calls ‘the gang of the tunnel’ is ongoing, with a trial set for December 20.

All five men have previous convictions for robbery, a law enforcement representative told local media. None of them have so far pleaded guilty in connection with the incident.

Grassi’s parents came to his defense, asking that their son not be called “a lucky thief,” telling the media: “He works for 50 euros a day. They told him to dig and he did it.”

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