Jimmy Alvarado, Jose Ramirez Killed in Jarrell, TX Trench Collapse Accident
UPDATE (December 29, 2022): After concluding their investigation into this accident OSHA said WBW Construction LLC, the company who employed Jimmy Alvarado and Jose Ramirez at the Jarrell work site, is primarily at fault for the deaths of its employees in the trench collapse. The agency found that the company's failure to follow required safety guidelines gave the men "little chance of survival" when the accident happened.
OSHA issued multiple citations to the company for its failure to exercise due care or adequately protect its workers and proposed penalties of over $250,000.
UPDATE (July 7, 2022): The two men who died in this accident have been identified as 20-year-old Jimmy Alvarado and 39-year-old Jose Vargas Ramirez.
Jarrell, TX — June 28, 2022, two workers were killed when a trench collapsed and buried them more than 20 feet underground in Jarrell.
According to reports the incident happened shortly before 8:40 a.m. along the 13600 block of North I-35 Frontage Road. Preliminary investigation suggests the victims were part of a crew digging a sewer line at the site of a new home development. It's unclear how the collapse was triggered, but both men were presumed dead after they were buried around 24 feet below ground.
At last report emergency crews were working to recover the victims' bodies.
No further information is available at this time.
Commentary on Jarrell Trench Collapse Accident
UPDATE (December 29, 2022): OSHA's conclusion seems to be that the company was negligent about protecting its employees as they worked on the trench. Citations were issued for failure to create an escape point, improper ladder use, failure to train employees in first aid, and a number of other issues any company worth its salt could easily have avoided.
Frankly, it makes me see red to know that a firm put its people in danger this way. OSHA fines may at least make it pause and re-think its policies, but those fines won't do much to directly help the families of the men who lost their lives while just trying to do their jobs. Someone should make sure the company answers to them as well and not just the government.
ORIGINAL: Commenters on news sites are already talking about how this is likely a matter for OSHA to resolve. They may send investigators to look into this tragic accident, but OSHA reports alone are rarely enough to help victims and families after devastating work accidents like this. While it's important to look into things like safety precautions, training, supervision, and other factors, the exact cause of the accident may require far more serious consequences than OSHA will address.
Let me explain with an example: I worked on a fatal work accident case not long ago where our investigations showed the victim's death was due to gross negligence. In that accident a man fell from a bucket lift and suffered fatal injuries. Early reports said his safety harness failed, but one of his fellow workers told us what really happened.
We learned the victim's supervisor and another co-worker got into a fistfight next to the bucket lift controls, bumping them during the fight and overturning the bucket. The victim didn't have a safety harness on at the time so the supervisor and the co-worker left him dying on the ground, ran to a nearby store, and bought one (receipts from the store verified this claim). Only after putting the vest on the man's dying body did they finally call for help.
That's clearly awful, but it also has other implications. A lot of work accidents fall within the confines of workers' compensation, which generally limits the consequences an employer can face even if their negligence led to the accident. However, if the accident is the result of gross negligence--negligence so serious it "shocks the senses"--then the employer can face consequences beyond the typical workers' comp restraints, allowing a victim's family to ensure there are significant consequences for those whose actions led to the death of their loved one.
I'm not saying anything of the sort happened in Jarrell. The trench collapse might really have been a sudden and unavoidable accident, and there's no specific reason to think any differently. There's just no telling until all the evidence is found, and every moment following the accident is another moment that evidence can slip through the cracks. The sooner experienced investigators look into what happened, the better.