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Worker dies in trench collapse in Johnstown

Victim's body recovered after 7-hour rescue effort
johnstown trench rescue.png
Posted at 11:35 AM, Apr 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 21:05:26-04

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. — Authorities said a worker died in a trench collapse during a construction project in Johnstown Friday.

The victim and three other employees of an excavating company were attempting to connect a sewer pipe for a house under construction in the 4200 block of Lacewood Lane when the trench filled with water and collapsed, trapping the victim in mud under the water, according to the Loveland Fire Rescue Authority (LFRA).

LFRA rescue crews were dispatched to the construction site around 3:45 p.m. Approximately 60 emergency service personnel converged on the scene. The victim’s body was recovered around 11 p.m. after heavy equipment was used to enlarge the excavation site.

On Monday, the Larimer County Coroner’s Office identified the victims as Luis M. Cortes-Correa, 50, of Thornton. His cause of death was drowning and it's considered an accident.

Authorities said the 25-feet deep and 30-feet wide trench was susceptible to rising ground water levels due to the high water table in the area. The area is near the Big Thompson River.

The workers had been using a sump-type device to remove water from the hole, in order to visualize the sewer main, LFRA said.

LFRA Battalion Chief Tim Smith, who was the incident commander, said contractors need to use trench boxes and other protection.

“It’s more time and effort, but what they don’t see is the outcome if they don’t use these safety devices,” he said in a statement.