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Atlanta Contractor Killed in Trench Collapse

A second tragic Atlanta construction accident in as many years has led to the death of a construction worker. Following on the heels of the 2008 bridge collapse at the Atlanta Botanical garden, which killed 1 worker and injured 18 others, a contractor was killed earlier this month when a trench collapsed on him in southwest Atlanta.

The contractor, 23-year-old Omar Israel, was working at a Habitat for Humanity residence on 7th Street in southwest Atlanta when the trench he was working in with several other contractors collapsed. According to Atlanta Fire and Rescue and the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, here is the likely chain of events:

Ismael, a plumber by trade, and 4-7 other workers were performing work in a 9-foot sewer trench. Due to Atlanta’s recent torrential rains, the ground was soggy and unstable. Conditions were ripe for what Atlanta Fire and Rescue battalion Chief Dave Rhodes called a “spoil pile.” A spoil pile occurs when the dirt that has been removed from a hole collapses back into the hole being dug.

The collapse occurred at about 4pm, burying Ismael completely. The other workers managed to escape. One other man, unidentified, fell into the hole as well but people on the scene were able to pull him out unharmed. Ismael was not so lucky. Frantic coworkers requested a shovel from neighbors and begin trying to dig him out with the shovel and by hand.

Rhodes reported that the weight of the dirt would have been unbearable. He said that the dirt weighted about 3,000 pounds per cubic yard and that rescuers dug out 32 cubic yards of dirt, for a total of nearly 100,000 pounds of dirt. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Ismael would have perished almost immediately beneath the weight. Still, Ismael remained buried for almost four hours before rescuers were able to retrieve his body from the 9-foot sewer trench.

Later, experts from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) came on scene to inspect the work’s adherence to safety regulations. As in the Atlanta Botanical Garden bridge collapse, they found that safety conditions were not being met. According to Rhodes, there had been no shoring on the scene, meaning that no wooden planks or steel plates had been used to hold the earth back from collapsing back into the trench.

As with the Atlanta Botanical Garden collapse, this sad incident demonstrates the need for construction managers, contractors and everyone on a construction site to be aware of the need for safety. The Atlanta Botanical Garden incident, in which 1 was killed and 18 were injured, led to steep fines for the construction companies involved. Check this space for more details as the story involving this newest construction accident unfolds.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an on-the-job accident, you may be entitled to recovery. Contact an experienced Georgia worker’s compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation