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NCSU police ID worker killed in trench collapse

Posted November 21, 2012

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— The North Carolina State University Police Department on Wednesday identified the worker who died a day earlier when a trench collapsed at a work site on the school's Centennial Campus. 

Luis Javier Martinez, 39, of Johnston County, was buried under several feet of dirt about 12:30 p.m. when a trench gave way. 

Emergency crews arrived at the work site shortly after the collapse and determined that a rescue attempt was too risky, Raleigh Fire Department Division Chief K.T. Hocutt said. 

This is an extremely technical rescue, not only a dangerous situation for the workers involved but for our first responders," he said Tuesday. "The initial rescue wasn't possible, so at that time it was determined this was going to be a recovery operation."

A backhoe moved soil away from the trench, and emergency crews used a compressor to suction it away. Crews also placed a blue tarp over the trench to shield the public's view as they removed Martinez's body about 2:40 p.m.

"Sometimes it's just too risky. You'll end up with multiple victims at the same time and with the shifting soil and fractures there it was to just too risky to go in before we could stabilize or remove the soil to gain access," Raleigh Fire's Frank McLaurin said.

Authorities said Tuesday that Martinez worked for JF Wilkerson Contracting in Morrisville. The work site was a City of Raleigh Public Works project, authorities said.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the trench to collapse, and authorities have not released any other information.

15 Comments

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  • limitguvment Nov 30, 9:08 a.m.

    Wilkerson has a sorry safety record, they killed two more guys in an electrocution accident a few years ago working under powerlines. I worked for them a short while and I heard the owner say " we just have to give safety enough lip service and then do what it takes to get the job done". They are like about 99 percent of all the rest of the contractors out there.

  • Rebelyell Nov 27, 6:19 p.m.

    For those comments about rescuers arriving and doing nothing, you don't get reports on the news about that, because the reporters are never allowed to say anything negative about first responders. But often when there is a fire, people wait for the fire department to rescue their family members in a house, and the fire department arrives and it becomes clear they are not going in, they will keep you from going in too.

  • Rebelyell Nov 27, 6:15 p.m.

    What kind of rescue equipment does the fire department have for folks that are buried like this? A shovel? The tarp mainly hides the pitiful rescue attempt. This is why we need more OSHA inspections and enforcement. And better inspectors.

  • dsdaughtry Nov 21, 5:27 p.m.

    i guess the most pressing question is, "why did this type of accident happen at one of the best engineering schools in the nation?"

  • RudeDawg Nov 21, 4:26 p.m.

    The first thing that they teach you in confined space training is if you walk up and find your buddy at the bottom of a hole do not try to rescue him; if you do the rescue team will have to recover two bodies not just one. In trenching and shoring compentent person training they harp on ladder placement, soil clasifications, and how to work in a trench safely; but the number one way to be killed at work in the united states is trench cave in. You can not use the track hoe to dig the person out because that will kill them by ripping them apart; so you must dig them out by hand because even with a shovel you could seriously injure the person you are attempting to rescue. You should only try a rescue once the trench is safe. 1 CF of dirt = 115# dry & = 125# wet. 1 CY = 3375# even if your head is exposed and you can talk to people on the site you will be crushed and probably suffocate in less than 3 min due to the inability to inhale. I work around utility trenches daily.

  • 101jackson101 Nov 21, 3:41 p.m.

    Accidents do happen even when all measures of safety have been met, just question if the worker had the opportunity or thought of suggesting that he did not feel safe under the conditions.

  • jaecee452 Nov 21, 2:22 p.m.

    There will always be somebody who says "would of, could of, should of". I agree with A1 Go Canes, unless you were there helping with the rescue stop speculating on what happened or should have happened.

  • A1 Go Canes Nov 21, 2:08 p.m.

    First off - If you are not part of the investigation, a person that was on site before/during/after the accident, or someone familiar with this type of work, stop speculating on what the worker was or wasn't doing. The contractor had a trench box in place, the worker was on top of the ground attempting to lower a ladder into the trench box for access when the ground collapsed. (The ladder OUTSIDE the box was more than likely a Firefighter's, used to disperse weight in a rescue attempt). There may have been ground water displacing soil that caused the exterior wall to erode very quickly and cause the cave in (not confirmed yet). As for why the FD didn't attempt a rescue... the conditions were unsafe when they arrived. The soil was prone to another collapse when the activity of a rescue was attempted. Almost all trench rescues turn to recoveries. The weight of the soil usually crushes the victim instantly, if not the pressure will not allow the person to take more than a few breaths.

  • OneLove Nov 21, 2:01 p.m.

    "That would be much riskier for the victim, but better than nothing." That's right.

  • OneLove Nov 21, 1:59 p.m.

    I totally agree they should have attempted something. Prayers to the family. How horrible to know everyone sat & watched.

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