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Worker dies after trench collapses at NCSU work site

Posted November 20, 2012

— A construction worker died Tuesday afternoon after being trapped underneath several feet of dirt at a work site on North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus, Raleigh Fire Department officials said.

Emergency crews arrived at the work site about 12:30 p.m. and determined that a rescue attempt was too risky, 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. "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 the 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 have not released the worker's name, but said he worked for JF Wilkerson Contracting in Morrisville. The work site was a City of Raleigh Public Works project, authorities said. 

NC State officials closed Main Campus Drive about 2 p.m. and told students in an alert that it would likely remain closed throughout the afternoon Tuesday.

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


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  • raleighlynn Nov 21, 2012

    How did this happen? Doesn't OSHA have rules in place for digging and trench work? This is an accident that didn't have to happen. R.I.P. and sympathy to the victim's family.

  • RudeDawg Nov 21, 2012

    I work in the industry, that being said; the laborer was at the top of the trench with the ladder attempting to put the ladder in the trench when the trench wall gave way and the dirt beneath his feet disappeared. He fell between the trench box and the trench wall and was trapped by the dirt he was standing on just seconds before. look at the pictures; the one with the I beam sticking out of the hole beside the trench box. look at the orange ladder in the hole on top of the dirt. look at the soil it is granular and type c soil which requires sloping of 1.5h:1v unless you are using protective system. the trench was deeper than the trench box and the wall colapsed and slid under the bottom of the trench box...I work in the utility business.

  • wmcmahon1 Nov 21, 2012

    "SOMETIMES IT'S JUST TOO RISKY"..........???? Give me a break! That sounds like what Obama said about the four Americans at the Consulate in Bengazi.

  • wewoods Nov 21, 2012

    thank you brianwhittier9!

    yes 900X3 is 2700lbs per cubic yard. Thanks for correcting my math. Of course this is an estimate, a heavy one I must add, because soil has many components. Sand, silt, and clay were the three I was going with with no aggregate (rocks) or organic material (roots/wood). But this is not a class, just an attempt to open some eyes on how heavey dirt is and how dangerous trenching and excavating is and to NOT enter one if you are not protected from it caving in. When does a cave in occur? WHENEVER it wants to.

  • wewoods Nov 21, 2012

    You're correct on the competent person requirement but that's about it. -willemakeit-
    I made no mention of exiting (or egress) but yes you are correct, it is 25' in either direction with a stairway, ladder, ramp, or other means of safe egress BUT at a depth of 4' or more, NOT 5'. 5' starts protective systems which are shoring (metal or timber supports, ie. trench boxes), sloping (angle of sides) or benching (stair-stepping sides back). But 5'? If soldering a pipe at the bottom of a 4'11.5" trench and it caves in (thats well over 1000lbs or dirt not to mention the momentum) do you think anyone will survive? Very doubtful. The OSHA 29CFR needs to be a MINIMUM requirement. Its up to everyone to go above and beyond those minimums to protect themselves, their friends, their co-workers, their employee's, and their employers...OUR families. THINK about what your doing and where. Go with 3'.

  • RudeDawg Nov 21, 2012

    The competent person is the only one with autority to stop work on the job (by osha's definition)... the POTUS does not have the ability to stop work on this job without assuming the liability that goes with it. this is on the crew working in and around the trench. and the company's competent person.

  • SportsLover75 Nov 21, 2012

    Prayers for thier family and friends.

  • Grand Union Nov 21, 2012

    "nothing happened the other 200 times he did this."

    Humans are very fallible in this respect....the same thinking was the root cause of the Challenger disaster.

  • Grand Union Nov 21, 2012

    "you would under ordinary conditions think that with so many p.e's arounds an about on the schools campaus that surely sonething of this nature would not have occured here"

    It will have been a private contractor not the College that was doing this work. And it seems from the picture that steel shoring was being used. Its likely the victim simply made a mistake and did something unsafe. My experience with manual laborers is that they are sometimes very careless with their own safety. They do something so often that the forget that its dangerous and then their luck rubs out.

  • ghimmy51 Nov 21, 2012

    This is my sort of work. There is NO excuse for this to happen. No excuse. Where was the inspector? Why were trenching and shoring regulations not followed? Best guess: inspector at lunch, contractor in a hurry ... nothing happened the other 200 times he did this.