The owner of a construction company was killed and a police officer injured yesterday in a trench collapse in suburban Detroit.
News sources say 59-year-old Leland Rumph was digging a trench into a sewer in Grosse Pointe Woods when the 20-feet-deep trench collapsed, burying him up to his neck in heavy clay.
An estimated 160 neighboring police and emergency agencies responded to the accident.
"We were talking to him"
Rumph was reportedly conscious and stable as first responders attempted to dig him out by hand. They were able to free his arms and head, but a second collapse occurred, leaving a police officer with spinal and neck injuries. Rumph died before he could be extracted from the trench. The injured police officer is expected to recover.
"We were able to clear his head and get an oxygen flow to him. We were talking to him when the secondary collapse happened," said Al Fincham, the city’s director of public safety.
The instability of the ground delayed recovery efforts. As of last night, crews were still removing clay from the area around Rumph’s body.
"It's a horrible, horrible experience and an unnecessary loss," said Fincham.
Rumph owned Rumph Construction for 30 years.
According to OSHA, two workers are killed in the U.S. each month by trench collapses. Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities. One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car.
The agency requires a protective system in trenches five feet deep or greater unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock.