The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA, has opened an investigation into the deadly north Columbus construction accident that killed two construction workers Monday. An OSHA spokesperson said the organization has six months to issue any findings or to report on any safety violations that occurred.
Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan confirmed James Jackson, 50, and Allen Thomas, 46, both of Columbus, became trapped just before 11 a.m. Monday in a 25-foot long trench at a construction site at Summit Pointe Apartments and Villas. They were working with Allen Development Group to expand the apartment complex at 3071 Williams Road. Building permits obtained from the city show a new clubhouse and apartment triplex were scheduled to be built.
OSHA said a compliance officer will begin gathering all the facts, looking at physical evidence and will talk with eyewitnesses to determine a timeline of events before and after the accident. They will also review the employer's past to see if any prior OSHA citations have been issued. An online search of the OSHA website did not reveal any prior investigations for Allen Development Group.
If any violations are determined citations and penalties are issued. The company has the option to appeal those findings if they choose.
Around 6:20 p.m. Monday the bodies of two construction workers were recovered after they were trapped under 12-18 feet of dirt. They are expected to be transported to Atlanta Wednesday for autopsies.
Six people were working in the ditch, using a tamper to compress dirt, when the side wall collapsed. Bryan said it appeared there was no structural safety guards in place. Four people were able to get out, but Jackson and Thomas became trapped.
According to its website OSHA regulations require that trenches 5 feet or deeper have "a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock."
Jackson's son works at the same construction site and was there when the accident happened. "The son Mike was a backhoe operator. He tried in desperation to save them. He did everything he could at the time to remove the dirt off them, but didn't really have an idea of where they were located within the realms of the ditch," Bryan said. Thomas and Jackson were family members Bryan said.
About 30 people from the Columbus Fire & EMS rescue group worked several hours trying to free the men. They had to first stabilize the wall before they were able to dig. For a time they were using hand shovels and five-gallon buckets to try and dig the victims out.
Bryan said the cause of death will likely be asphyxiation.
A spokesperson for Allen Development Group released a statement saying their thoughts and prayers are with both families.
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