SOUTH HUNTINGDON TOWNSHIP (KDKA/AP) – One person was killed when a trench collapsed in Westmoreland County Wednesday morning.
According to emergency dispatchers, the incident happened in the 300 block of Fitz Henry Road in South Huntingdon Township around 9:30 a.m.
The victim has been identified as 18-year-old Adam Skokut. He and his family were installing a septic system at their home.
Officials said the nine-foot-deep trench began to fill with water and Skokut tried to escape, but fell back into the trench, and the side clay walls collapsed, trapping him.
Officials said emergency responders were able to get him free to the waist and tried to revive him, but the remaining trench wall was so unstable they had to further secure it, and Skokut died.
“They attempted to dig. They did, I guess, dig him down to his shoulders, attempted some resuscitation efforts, and then continued to dig some more, and what was happening was it started to come and that’s when they realized, they pulled everybody out,” said Chief Bill Watkins, of the Westmoreland County Trench Rescue Team.
The coroner’s office said Skokut died of compression suffocation, and the death was ruled accidental.
Neighbors are remembering him as a hard-working young man.
“They’ve been here forever, just hard-working,” Michele Tylka, a family friend said. “We’d always see Adam driving his lawn tractor up and down the road; he’d always wave to us. It’s just such a horrible tragedy.”
State police and OSHA are investigating.
First responders believe, however, this could’ve been an avoidable tragedy if the proper equipment would have been in place.
“Anytime you’re digging a trench, a ditch, whether it’s a water line, a sewer line, any type of work underground like that, trench boxes is the way to go,” said Chief Watkins.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)