Father-to-be and father of 5 killed in Colorado trench collapse

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Updated May 2, 2019
Responders use a vacuum to remove loose dirt during a trench-collapse rescue attempt April 16 in Windsor, Colorado. The trench was shored so responders could enter the trench with small shovels and buckets to dig out the two buried workers. “Since the ground is both unstable and compacted around the trapped workers, extreme caution to cause no further harm to those trapped, nor the emergency response personnel on scene, was paramount to the operation,” according to the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue department. Photo credit: Windsor Severance Fire RescueResponders use a vacuum to remove loose dirt during a trench-collapse rescue attempt April 16 in Windsor, Colorado. The trench was shored so responders could enter the trench with small shovels and buckets to dig out the two buried workers. “Since the ground is both unstable and compacted around the trapped workers, extreme caution to cause no further harm to those trapped, nor the emergency response personnel on scene, was paramount to the operation,” according to the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue department. Photo credit: Windsor Severance Fire Rescue

A father of five and a young father-to-be died April 16 in a trench collapse in Windsor, Colorado.

The men were buried alive during a residential water and sewer project in a 15-foot-deep trench that was 4 feet wide.

Jorge ValadezJorge Valadez

During the rescue attempt that began at about 2 p.m., fire and EMS personnel were able to talk to one of the victims during most of their efforts through a PVC pipe that had been inserted into the trench by workers before rescue personnel arrived, according to the Windsor Severance Fire Rescue department. The man’s family was also able to speak with him before he died in the trench, the department said.

Christopher RamirezChristopher Ramirez

Rescue personnel worked a total of 13 hours at the site, according to the department. They reported no trench box or shoring present. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating Backhoe Excavating Inc. of Firestone, Colorado, for the incident.

The victims were identified as:

• Jorge Baez Valadez, 41, of Denver, who is survived by a wife and five children, ages 6 to 17, according to a GoFundMe page for his family.

• Christopher Lee Ramirez, 26, of Boulder, who is survived by his wife who is pregnant with their first child, according to a family GoFundMe page.

“He left for work early on Tuesday … like any normal day at work, when things took a turn for the worse,” the page for the Ramirez family says. “He was unable to tell those closest to him goodbye.”

For more on the business and human costs of trench-collapse fatalities in the United States, see Equipment World’s special report “Death by Trench”.