More than 150 people tried to save man who died in Warren County trench

Dec 29, 2017

Federal investigators are talking with representatives from JK Excavating, the employer of 25-year-old Zachary Hess, who died Thursday after a trench collapse in Warren County. 

“We’ve opened the investigation. We’re looking at what might have caused it. We’re talking to the employer. We’re looking at whether OSHA regulations were followed,” Scott Allen, a public information officer for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration said this morning. 

Zachary Hess (CONTRIBUTED).

MORE: Employer in fatal trench collapse paid $5,800 fine in 2014

“We will work as diligently as we can and complete it as quickly as possible,” Allen added, estimating no report would be available for at least three months. 

“It’s too early in the investigation.” Allen said. “It’s definitely the employer’s responsibility to ensure employees are working in a safe environment.” 

The employer, JK Excavating of Mason, did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

The Warren County Coroner is expect to conduct an autopsy today on Hess, who is from Mason but lived in Cincinnati, according his Facebook page.

He died Thursday after being buried in a trench at a work site at 5506 Anna Marie Dr. in Salem Twp., Warren County. 

Doyle Burke, chief investigator for the coroner’s office, estimated 150 people from rescue squads from around the area were at the scene, attempting to rescue Hess. 

Clearcreek Fire Chief Steve Agenbroad said crews of five to 10 firefighters took turns hand-digging in hopes of getting to Hess, buried 20 feet to 30 feet down, while he was alive. Initially dispatched at 11:50 a.m. Thursday, the scene was cleared about 12:30 a.m. Friday, after they got to his body.

No heavy equipment was used for fear of worsening the collapse.

FIRST REPORT: Warren County man, 25, killed in trench collapse

Before digging, the rescuers also stabilized the area to guard against more collapses and to protect the crews digging for Hess. 

The crews were cycled in and out after they grew tired from the digging and extreme cold. 

The Morrow Fire Department called for help from the Warren County Tactical Rescue Team. 

“They realized this scenario exceeded their capability” and called the Hamilton County Urban Search and Rescue Team, a group including a variety of experts, including structural engineers, Agenbroad said. 

“You can’t throw your everyday firefighter into that scenario,” said Agenbroad, who sent an ambulance and rescue technicians and monitored the rescue by radio. 

Such a rescue can trigger emotions in rescuers much like the victim, Agenbroad said, especially “right after Christmas.” 

“You put your professional hat on you get to work and do what you have to do,” he said.