More Than Just One Tragedy

More Than Just One Tragedy

Chris, Brandon and Javier were my best employees when I worked as a superintendent years ago… Javier was a devoted “family man” who seldom consumed alcohol and regularly encouraged other employees to go home to their families instead of going to the bar on Fridays to wind down.  Chris had a wife and two small kids.

One day,  Chris was pinned between the trench box and the pipe when the front of the trench collapsed, due to a water main that the crew was about to cross perpendicularly, and dirt rushed into the trench box pushing the pipe up against Chris and the trench box.

At this point, Chris was not injured at all but was just stuck in the trench box by the dirt that partially buried his lower body. After the dirt collapse, the asbestos water main, now hanging unsupported by the dirt, snapped due to the weight of the water inside it, and the trench, that Chris was stuck in, began to fill with water. …

The crew searched feverously to find a shut-off valve to turn the water off but were unable to locate it.  Later on, we would find it was only a few feet away, but it had been covered by several inches of dirt.

Brandon held Chris’s hand to calm him down as the water encircled him, assuring him help was on the way.  He held his hand as the water went over Chris’s head and he passed away. None of us were ever the same after that.

As I see it, that day we not only lost Chris, but also Brandon and Javier, who had witnessed the horrible accident.  Shortly after the incident, both individuals turned to drugs and were never the same, their families were broken as a result.   Brandon took his own life not long after this tragedy.

Regards – Brett Nielsen


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