Trench Collapses, Trapping Construction Worker In Rising Water

A construction worker who was helping install sewage lines for a new housing development drowned Friday night after firefighters say the 25-foot-deep hole he was working in collapsed and trapped him.

Video Transcript

KELLY WERTHMANN: A construction worker installing a sewage line in Weld County was killed last night after the trench he was working in collapsed. First responders say the worker drowned as water quickly rose in the trench, and he was unable to climb out. CBS4's Dillon Thomas joining us live tonight in the Thompson River Ranch neighborhood of Johnstown, where that collapse happened. And Dillon, first responders say basic construction safety precautions were not in place at the time of that collapse.

DILLON THOMAS: Kelly, this is the third fatal trench collapse that I've covered myself, just between right here in Johnstown and neighboring Windsor just to the north of where we are right now. All three have one major thing in common, the crews were not using trench walls, which are large metal barriers which sole purpose are to prevent tragedies just like this.

- Very early on, we knew it was what we call trench rescue.

DILLON THOMAS: In a neighborhood development, just feet away from the Big Thompson River--

- There was three of his coworkers that were already in the hole trying to help him out.

DILLON THOMAS: --a construction worker, tasked with installing a sewage line, found himself trapped at the bottom of a funnel shaped trench, 25 feet below ground level. The walls of the trench had collapsed. The nearby river caused the hole to flood quickly.

- That trapped him in that position. And then the water kept on rising, and they weren't able to get the water out.

DILLON THOMAS: 15 agencies and nearly 70 firefighters worked for nearly 10 hours to recover the victim. Most of the tools firefighters would typically utilize were ineffective. As the trench was round, not rectangular.

- They're designed to hold the dirt back. And then we use air struts, or wood, to help stabilize that and keep the shores in place. That's typically what we would use, but we didn't have a standard trench. So it was very dangerous for us to operate in.

DILLON THOMAS: Making things more difficult, the workers weren't using a trench wall, like this one here, which firefighters say could have prevented this all.

- And that wasn't in place. So we didn't have any safety devices on. --saying they don't prevent everything, but they at least slow down what could be a catastrophe.

DILLON THOMAS: We did reach out to OSHA today to see if they were investigating this case. That's the organization that looks into injuries that are done on the work environment. However, we have not heard back at this time. Reporting live in Johnstown, Dillon Thomas, covering Colorado first.