Charges possible in trench death

5:39 p.m Friday, June 17, 2016 Local

The employer of the man killed Wednesday after a trench collapsed on him initially “did not tell the truth” about the hole’s depth and could face criminal charges, county records show.

The body of KRW Plumbing worker James Rogers was recovered several hours after a trench he was in collapsed at a Washington Twp. construction site early Wednesday afternoon.

A Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office report obtained by the Dayton Daily News on Friday indicates KRW Plumbing’s owner initially told deputies the trench on Claxton Glen Court was seven feet deep.

When Occupational Safety and Health Administration representatives arrived, Rick Williams of KRW “admitted the trench was 12 feet deep,” according to sheriff’s office records.

The report also states OSHA investigators would present their findings to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges against Williams “due to lack of proper safety precautions at the job site.”

The report did not specify what the safety precautions involved. A trench five feet or deeper requires a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock, according to OSHA.

Attempts to contact Williams on Friday were unsuccessful. An OHSA official in Cincinnati said Friday she was not aware of the sheriff’s office report but would seek to obtain a copy.

OSHA Assistant Area Director Gaye Johnson referred further inquiries to the Department of Labor in Chicago. OSHA’s investigation could take up to six months, said Scott Allen, that department’s director of public affairs.

“It won’t be just about this incident,” he said. “We’ll look at the company and try to determine if all of the (OSHA) standards and regulations” are met.

Allen said “OSHA would consider forwarding a recommendation for criminal charges if the violations were willful and egregious.”

Rogers, 33, of Winchester in south central Ohio, was laying piping in the trench made of hard-packed clay at 463 Claxton Glen near Marshall Road when the collapse happened shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday.

More than two dozen safety vehicles responded from multiple jurisdictions, and a portion of Marshall Road was closed for hours. Dozens of police and fire personnel responded before his body was recovered shortly after 9 p.m., said Bill Gaul, Washington Twp. fire chief.

Rogers was working in the trench dug by Williams on a new home construction site when the company owner saw dirt from the sides of the hole had collapsed, burying Rogers, according to the sheriff’s office report.

“Williams immediately screamed out loud and ran to the trench and began digging with a shovel in an attempt to free Rogers,” the report states. “Williams said he heard ‘groaning’ from Rogers, but Rogers was unable to speak.”

KRW worker Ron Ison Jr., who had been dumping gravel in the trench to properly place sewer pipe, heard Williams scream and began helping him dig to free Rogers, the report indicates.

Ison said he continued digging until Washington Twp. fire officials told him to stop “as it was too dangerous to continue digging in the unstable trench,” according to the report.

The trench was one of the deepest the regional technical rescue team has encountered, its coordinator, Washington Twp. Fire Capt. Michael Guadagno has said. The rescue team’s equipment is only made for trenches eight feet deep, and he has said the team had to custom build shoring while on site.

Rescue personnel could not recover the body until shortly after 9 p.m., when they found it about 10.5 feet down, according to the report.