Friday, May 21, 2004

More On Opelika Trench Tragedy

I wrote yesterday about the tragic death of Willie Hodges, who died in a hospital after being buried to the waist for four hours after a trench collapsed on top of him. Hodge was conscious during most of the rescue attempt and his family had come down to the site.

But this story keeps getting worse.
Willie Lewis Hodges, 44, of Lee Road 72, was pronounced dead at East Alabama Medical Center, Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said.


Harris said Hodges died from massive bleeding because of a severe pelvis fracture. Workers tried to dig Hodges out of the ditch, Harris said, and they were only able to free him by amputating part of his right leg.

"It was either he was going to die, or they were going to cut his leg off to try to save his life," Harris said.
The company owner had these comments:
"We're still trying to determine what happened," said Billy Cleveland, owner of Cleveland Brothers Construction. "It was a very unfortunate accident."
What happened is that an apparently unshored 10 foot deep trench (which was in violation of an OSHA standard which requires shoring or trench boxes for trenches over 5 feet deep) collapsed on top of Willie Hodges. Trenches often do this. It's a well known hazard. It was certainly "unfortunate," but it was no "accident."
Cleveland said Hodges had worked for the company for less than two months. Cleveland, who has been in the construction business for 20 years, said this is the first time one of his workers has been killed on the job.

"It was just not a good situation," Cleveland said.
So this guy's been in the construction business for 20 years and doesn't know about shoring trenches? I find this hard to believe. As I've said before, there's really no excuse. You're in the business -- especially for 20 years -- either you know, or you should know how to protect your employees. Either way, deaths in unprotected trenches should be automatic jail time.

Anyone out there disagree?