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Man killed in Fort Bragg trench was a 'gentle giant'

Clyde Thomas Nettles Jr. was the civilian construction worker trapped and killed when a trench collapsed at Fort Bragg last week. He was 22.

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The parents of Clyde Thomas Nettles Jr. shared photos and talked about their son Tuesday to put a face on their loss. 

At 6 feet 1 inch tall and 240 pounds, Nettles was always tall for his age, said his mother, Anita.

"But once you got to know him, they found out he was like a gentle giant," he said.

Nettles, they said, was the civilian construction worker trapped and killed last week when a trench collapsed at Fort Bragg. He was 22. 

Nettles and a co-worker were digging an 18 foot drainage ditch to install a pipe when things quickly went wrong.

"Parker said he heard a grunt, heard him grunt," said Nettles' father, Clyde. "He turned around and looked and half his waist was covered up with sand. He stepped towards him to grab his hand. When he went to do that, the whole bank just, in one lick. In one lick. It wasn't even a half a second."

Several thousand pounds of sand collapsed on Nettles near Ammunition Supply Point. Authorities said crews had been working to install pipes for a bunker when a large rock or large amount of dirt dislodged, prompting the collapse. 

"CID at Fort Bragg gave him two minutes," the elder Nettles said. "The Fayetteville coroner gave him less than 30 seconds."

Crews used buckets and their hands to dig out Nettles' body, which was recovered after almost a full day of effort. 

Nettles' family is planning a remembrance celebration on Saturday at the Cape Fear Conference B Headquarters in Raeford.

Army Criminal Investigation Command special agents and OSHA are investigating the collapse.


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