A trench collapsed on Tuesday at a construction site near Austin, killing two workers who were buried alive.
A 911 call reported the accident in Jarrell, Texas, and requested police and emergency responders came in at 8:39 a.m. The accident itself took place mere minutes earlier.
According to construction workers on-site and the police who arrived later, the trench was only about two feet wide. Nick Spinetto, a spokesman for the City of Jarrell, later confirmed that the workers who had been buried fell a distance of 24 feet when the walls collapsed.
The collapse happened near 13700 North I-35 in a residential area in the small town, which is about 40 miles northeast of Austin. The workers at the site were supposed to dig a large trench, after which they would lay down a sewer line as part of a residential housing construction project.
A Tuesday Facebook post from the Jarrell Police Department requested assistance from the Georgetown, Round Rock, and Austin Fire Departments’ technical rescue crews and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, the Temple Police Department also sent a special operations team to the site by Temple Fire and Rescue. However, it noted that the men were presumed to be dead.
As Jarrell is part of Williamson County, the greater neighboring resources available to its police department were expected to help investigate what happened, as they had during the initial recovery effort.
Given the nature of the accident, emergency personnel focused on recovering the workers’ bodies rather than saving their lives. According to Spinetto, rescue workers were not expected to get to the men until they could secure the site and ensure there was no longer any risk of more dirt collapsing upon the rescuers.
The bodies of the two men were recovered early on Wednesday morning. They were both extricated between 6 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., according to Mark McAdams, chief officer with the Williamson County Emergency Services District 5.
In addition to local officials, representatives from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration inspected the site.
Thus far, the cause of the trench collapse remains unknown.
The names of the two buried workers have not yet been released to the public, though Spinetto said that Victims Services personnel had quickly arrived at the scene to render assistance to their families. According to reports, both victims were graduates of Jarrell ISD schools.
The district’s superintendent, Toni Hicks, gave a statement expressing her sympathy.
“This has certainly been very heart-wrenching for our entire town and our district as well. We are certainly a small town, but with a big heart,” Hicks said. “Our hearts are with our families right now.”