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15-Foot Hole Collapses on Construction Worker in McLean, Burying and Killing Him

Fairfax County police and fire were on the scene Tuesday morning.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue workers were still shoring up the sides of the trench Tuesday afternoon in order to prevent any danger during the recovery effort. Patch photo by Jason Spencer
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue workers were still shoring up the sides of the trench Tuesday afternoon in order to prevent any danger during the recovery effort. Patch photo by Jason Spencer

Update (1:10 p.m.): An unidentified man died Tuesday morning after a trench collapsed in a McLean neighborhood, burying him.

Emergency responders were called to the vacant house at 1050 Kinglet Court at about 9:30 a.m.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Fairfax County Fire and Rescue workers were still trying to shore up the 15-foot hole so they could dig the man out. Deputy Chief of Operations Chuck Ryan told Patch that fire and rescue workers would need at least another two hours to extract the man.

The trench was about 4 feet wide and 6 feet long, running aside the home's carport.

Law enforcement found the man dead when they arrived at the home, in a small residential cul-de-sac, said police spokeswoman Shelley Broderick.

"The investigation is in its early stages, but it appears the man and several of his co-workers were digging the trench when the man fell in the hole and the dirt collapsed around him," she told Patch.

Police at this point are not investigating the incident as a criminal matter, Broderick said. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, also had investigators on the scene.

Broderick did not know the name of the construction company or the nature of its work Tuesday. A neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said the home had been vacant for about a year and the trench was being dug for utility work in advance of new owners taking over the property.

The man likely died within minutes of the morning collapse, Ryan said.

The time a person can survive buried under dirt varies based on the type of soil and how compact it is. The soil here is very compact, he said.

Well after noon, Fire and Rescue workers were clearing dirt alongside the trench and erecting safety platforms. Boards were inserted along the walls of the hole to try to prevent a second collapse during the retrieval effort.

Once workers can maneuver in the hole, removing the soil becomes a "dirt into pail" operation by hand, Ryan said.

"These don't happen, thankfully, with any regularity in the county," he said.

The last similar incident Ryan could recall in Fairfax County was about two years ago in the Annandale-Bailey's Crossroads area, though that did not result in a fatality.

Anne Arundel, Md., firefighters on Monday recovered the body of a construction worker who died after a trench, about 8 feet deep, collapsed on him in Severn.

Update (11:28 a.m.): ABC7 is reporting that a construction worker died Tuesday morning after falling into a 15-foot hole.

The man had been operating a backhoe on Kinglet Court when he fell, according to ABC7.

Original article (11:10 a.m.): Fairfax County police and firefighters are on the scene of an incident at a construction site in the 1000 block of Kinglet Court in the McLean Police District.

The call involves an entrapment with injury, police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell told Patch.

Kinglet Court is off of Balls Hill Road not far from its intersection with Old Dominion Drive.

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