Wednesday’s fatal trench collapse in New Plymouth is the third such incident in the past three years in the Treasure Valley.
In May 2016, Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata, 26, of Nampa, and Bert Smith Jr., 36, of Caldwell, were killed in a trench collapse at a construction site on Hill Road and Gary Lane in Boise.
In March 2017, Harold Foote, 58, of Middleton was killed in a construction trench collapse on Franklin Boulevard north of Joplin Road in Nampa.
In the Boise case, the two men died when a 9- to 11-foot-deep trench caved in while they were working and buried them. The cause of death was mechanical asphyxia due to compression.
A third man was also buried but survived. The third man reportedly sustained serious injuries. The men were working for Hard Rock Construction.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that Hard Rock Construction was to blame for the accident.
Inspectors for OSHA said Hard Rock failed to provide a cave-in protection system or a ladder to get in and out of the trench. Hard Rock Construction was issued four citations by OSHA on Oct. 4 for an unsafe work environment, totaling $77,319 in fines.
A copy of the citation states the company failed to instruct employees about unsafe working conditions based upon conditions and the environment and failed to instruct them on how to prevent cave-ins. The document also states the company failed to provide a ladder to escape and that the company failed to have a “competent person” inspect the work area prior to the start.
The final “willful” citation was issued by OSHA after OSHA said the employer did not protect each worker by properly sloping the sides of the trench or using protective systems such as a trench box.
In the Nampa trench collapse that killed Harold Foote, OSHA did not investigate the collapse because Foote was employed through his own business.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration looked into the death and determined there was no employer-employee relationship, which is necessary before the federal agency can step in and perform a thorough workplace investigation.
The agency concluded that Foote was the sole owner of the company.
First responders and workers at the site were able to dig Foote out and remove him from the trench. Star Fire District Chief Greg Timinsky said no trench boxes — which prevent collapses — were being used at the time of the collapse.
Canyon County paramedics began lifesaving measures and transported Foote to St. Luke’s Medical Center. Foote was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Foote attended local schools and graduated from Middleton High School, according to his obituary.