Road construction worker dies after Minnetonka trench collapse

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Jimmy Klous, 48, of Onamia, Minn. was buried alive Monday when a trench collapsed at the construction site where he was working in Minnetonka. 

A road construction worker who was buried alive when a trench collapsed in Minnetonka, Minn. has died. Jimmy Klous, 48, of Onamia, Minn. was working on the Oakland Road reconstruction project when he and his coworker, 25-year-old Tory Swan, became trapped Monday morning.

The death was confirmed Tuesday by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner. The cause and manner of death are pending further investigation.

Jimmy Klous had just returned to work for Dave Perkins Contracting, Inc. three days earlier. He had worked for Perkins in the past, but it had been several years. Owner Dave Perkins expressed his sincere sadness over what happened.

When a Minnetonka Fire Department rescue crew arrived at the site just after 10 a.m. Monday, they found Swan buried in mud and dirt to his waist and learned Klous was completely covered and unresponsive.

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

Klous' sister-in-law, Terry, told Fox 9 his family is devastated by the loss and is calling the accident a preventable death. Terry says Jimmy's brother had previously warned him not to go into trenches without a protective box. 

OSHA is investigating what went wrong and why.  Perkins said his crews were getting ready to install protective trench boxes when the collapse occurred, burying the two workers. The Minnetoka fire chief on Monday confirmed that the boxes were not installed, and that there appeared to be no protective equipment in place.

Dave Perkins Contracting was cited by OSHA in 2010 for not having protective trench equipment in place to prevent a cave-in. They were fined. Dave Perkins told Fox 9 he barely remembers the circumstances of the case, calling it “minor”

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.