Trench Collapse Proves Fatal
By Jeanne Sager
ROCK HILL May 8, 2007 A contractor installing a sewer line at a house in the Emerald Green development lost his life Monday afternoon.
According to Undersheriff Eric Chaboty, the unidentified man was buried under dirt and a chunk of blacktop when the trench where he was working collapsed.
Although the accident is still under investigation, Chaboty said initial reports lead police to believe the man was working in the trench made to install a sewer line at house number 23 on Nottingham Gate in Rock Hill while his colleagues had taken a lunch break.
When they came back, they discovered the collapsed trench, the man half covered.
A call went out to 911, and the first two volunteer firemen from Rock Hill and a paramedic from MobileMedic climbed down into the deep trench that had been cut out across the roadway to attempt CPR.
A Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forest ranger also on the scene jumped into a small backhoe on site, attempting to move enough dirt to free the man from the rubble.
Eventually the emergency workers tried using the claw of the backhoe to lift the man from the trench with straps tied around his body, but even that proved fruitless, Chaboty said.
Determining it was too dangerous to continue work inside the trench, Rock Hill firemen called on their fellow firefighters in Monticello who are trained in trench rescue.
Monticello firefighters in turn called on the trench rescue team from Mechanicstown.
At press time, emergency workers were still trying to recover the body. Sullivan County Coroner Elton Harris had already been on scene, declaring the man dead, and the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police had both responded to the call.
Chaboty said OSHA has been alerted because the trench had not been properly shored up to prevent a collapse.
No other injuries were reported, and the Sheriff’s Office has yet to determine the cause of the collapse or why the man was even in the trench at the time of the collapse.
“We have some real heroes in this county who would risk their lives to go into a trench to rescue someone they don’t even know,” noted Sheriff Mike Schiff. “They deserve a lot of credit.”