Trench collapses during Minnetonka road project, 2 workers trapped

- A trench collapsed during a dig for a road construction project on Oakland Road in Minnetonka, Minn. on Monday, trapping two workers. When a Minnetonka Fire Department rescue crew arrived at the site just after 10 a.m., they found one man buried in mud and dirt to his waist and learned the second man was completely covered and unresponsive.

Minnetonka Fire Chief John Vance knew his rescue crews were in unfamiliar and dangerous territory, but they didn’t hesitate to jump into the collapsed trench to free the trapped workers.

“We are not trained on trench rescues, other than the awareness of the dangers,” Chief Vance said. “They were probably in a situation that ideally they wouldn’t be in, but they were brave enough to go down real quick and try to help out the workers down there and get them out.”

By 10:24 a.m., the two workers were pulled out of the trench, using hands, leverage and pure strength. The workers were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, with the fully-covered worker in very serious condition.

OSHA is now investigating what went wrong and why. Rescuers report that there was no obvious trench reinforcement equipment.

“A lot of times with trenches, you just don’t know what you get,” Vance said. “Unspoiled soil, excavated one time, void space, water leaks -- that was the project, working on water lines.”

Minnetonka city officials confirmed Dave Perkins Contracting, Inc. was the lead firm on the project. The company declined to comment on the incident.

The trench work is part of an Oakland Road reconstruction project that started the week of July 4, from the Oakland Road Bridge to Essex Road. The purpose of the project is to replace the aging water main system and to complete necessary sanitary sewer, storm sewer and roadway improvements.

The city of Minnetonka listed the following work as slated to be done the week of July 25:

Water Main Construction: Pits will be excavated in the Area 1 roadway for the water main pipe bursting operation. These pits will be protected with concrete barriers; please use caution. Pipe for the bursting operation will be “fused” together. Pipe bursting work will begin later in the week.

Storm Sewer Repair: Crews will repair storm sewer pipes and structures.

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