NEW PLYMOUTH — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking over the investigation of the death of two local men who died Wednesday morning while performing work on a trench. Javier Ortega Jr., 59, of New Plymouth, and Arcenio Carrillo, 51, of Vale, died as a result of a trench collapsing on them while working for a private company. The Payette County Sheriff’s Office has not been able to confirm the name of the company the men were working for.
Ortega Jr. and Carrillo were installing irrigation pipes for an irrigation system in a field when the trench collapsed on top of them.
OSHA was notified and arrived on Wednesday shortly after the incident to begin its investigation, according to an email from Payette County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Creech.
A backhoe operator who was also at the worksite reported the collapse. Creech said it is not clear whether anybody else was working in the ditch or whether any other workers were in the area.
It is not yet known how deep the trench was, but Creech said “they did not have the device used to hold the trench walls up.”
The incident was not related to recent flooding in the area, according to an update from the Payette County Emergency Operations Center. However, soil could have been impacted from recent rainstorms, and according to OSHA, trenches should be inspected daily and especially after rainstorms. It is unknown whether the trench was inspected.
According to a spokesman with Idaho Department of Labor, OSHA has a six-month statute of limitations to complete its findings, however, they are likely to be completed before then. Because it is an open investigation, an OSHA spokesman said no comments can currently be made about the incident.
“Excavation and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations,” states information on OSHA’s website. “Cave-ins pose the greatest risk and are much more likely than other excavation related accidents to result in worker fatalities. … Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.”
According to information published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 130 fatalities recorded in trenching and excavation operations between 2011 and 2016.
According to a news release from the Payette County Sheriff’s Office, dispatch was called at 8:36 a.m. Wednesday about the incident west of New Plymouth.
Three area fire departments, paramedics including LifeFlight, law enforcement, two highway departments and a private construction company responded to the trench in an attempt to extricate the men.
Despite attempts, the release stated that “emergency personnel were not able to resuscitate the two men.”