Wednesday, July 18, 2001

Trench collapse won't slow road

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        CRITTENDEN — A state investigation into last week's trench collapse that injured a construction worker could take three months, but will not delay completion of an $11.6 million widening of Interstate 75.

        Authorities said the trench was reopened Tuesday with proper safety equipment in place, as state officials continued their investigation.

        The injured worker, Donnie Thacker, 27, of Shelbiana, Ky., was listed in serious condition Tuesday at University Hospital with crushing injuries to his lower extremities. After the collapse, he was stuck in the 9-foot-deep trench for more than 10 hours before being freed.

        Mr. Thacker was installing sewer pipe in the 3-foot wide trench when it collapsed on him.

        Charles Bucklew, president of Eaton Asphalt, the general contractor for the widening of I-75 and the Crittenden interchange, said Tuesday the project should still be finished by next February.

        “We're trying to get the interstate done quick as we can,” Mr. Bucklew said.

        Eddie Jacobs, assistant to Kentucky Secretary of Labor Joe Norseworthy, said its investigation into Eaton Asphalt, of Fort Wright, and Music Construction of Mount Sterling, Ky., could take one to three months. He declined to comment on what charges are being considered.

        “We have an open investigation,” Mr. Jacobs said.

        Mr. Bucklew said he has not heard from the state since Thursday's accident. Music Construction owner Jim Music could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

        Eaton Asphalt and Music Construction are being investigated for the accident in front of Grant County Deposit Bank on Violet Road. Music Construction is the subcontractor.

        Mr. Bucklew said the trench was reopened Tuesday — with a trench box in place.

        Mr. Music said last week the accident was the first involving a trench his company has had in its 29 years of operation.

        Federal and state law require trench boxes or use of a sloping method for trenches deeper than five feet.

        A general contractor or subcontractor must inspect trenches daily before and during each shift, and workers must be taught to spot potential problems. Mr. Jacobs said the company employing the workers in the trench is responsible for inspections.

        Music Construction hired Mr. Thacker. Mr. Music said last week there was “no excuse” for not using a trench box to secure the sides.

        Mr. Jacobs said the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Eaton Asphalt in a 1993 case, once for a training violation and twice for incidents involving trench safety.

        No one died, but Eaton was fined $5,000.

        Music Construction has never been cited, Mr. Jacobs said.

        Mr. Jacobs said his office investigated seven trenching accidents last year that resulted in three deaths. One of those killed was Larry Dale Stith, 32, of DeMossville, who died June 22, 2000, in an accident at the corner of Conner Drive and Ky. 237 in Hebron.

        In November, Paul Michels & Sons of Fort Wright, a subcontractor for Paul Hemmer Construction Co., was fined $52,500 for willfully not instructing workers about safety hazards or inspecting the trench and other safety systems.

        Bill Murphy, director of the Southwest Ohio OSHA office in Sharonville, said there was one trench accident last year in the 20-county area his office covers. Earl Sullivan, 65, died in accident along Straight Creek near Georgetown, Ohio.

        Mr. Murphy said Litter Construction Co. of Chillicothe was fined $5,000.

        Pete Rinsans of the Indiana Department of Labor office in Indianapolis said a fatal accident in Marion was the only fatality there in 2000.


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- Trench collapse won't slow road