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A Plumber Dies After the Collapse of a Trench Wall

New York Case Report: 07NY033


In May 2007, a 46 year old self-employed plumbing contractor (the victim) died when the unprotected trench he was working in collapsed. The victim was an independent plumber subcontracted to install a sewer line connection to the sewer main, part of a general contractor project to install a new sanitary sewer for an existing single family residence.

At approximately 12:30 PM on the day of the incident, the workers on site observed the victim walking back toward the residence for parts as they initiated their lunch break. When the victim did not come for his lunch or answer his cell phone, the general contractor and workers starting searching for the victim. The excavation contractor observed that a portion of the trench had collapsed where the victim was installing a sewer tap. The victim was found trapped in the trench under a large slab of asphalt, rock and soil. Three workers immediately climbed down the side of the trench to try to assist the victim. One of the workers called 911 on his cell phone. Police and emergency medical services (EMS) arrived on site within minutes. The EMS members entered the unprotected trench but could not revive the victim. The county trench rescue team recovered the victim’s body at approximately seven feet below grade and lifted him from the ditch four hours after the incident. He was pronounced dead at the site. More than 50 rescue workers were involved in the recovery.

A Plumber Dies After the Collapse of a Trench Wall [PDF 472 KB]