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2 Killed in NM Sewer Trench Collapse

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

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Authorities are investigating the deadly collapse of a trench that crushed two city employees as they worked on a sewer line in Las Vegas, NM.

A cousin of one victim, who was also working on site at the time of the accident, fought unsuccessfully to free his cousin from the rubble.

Frank Romero, 49, and Gene Hern, 32 perished Wednesday morning when the walls of the trench they were working in collapsed as they were installing water and sewer lines. Rescue personnel worked more than six hours to recover the men’s bodies from under the rubble.



OSHA requires that trench walls be shored, sloped, benched or shielded with trench boxes. Authorities said the trench that collapsed was not shored.

Both men had worked for the city for four years, published reports said.

Desperate Rescue Attempt

The New Mexico Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the state’s Office of Medical Investigator are investigating the accident.

Hern’s cousin Travis, who was also working at the site, told KOAT-TV that he had he heard a yell, saw a cloud of dust, and realized two men were trapped. The station said Travis Hern tried to dig out the others with his bare hands but was too late. Both men died at the scene.

Trench Not Shored

City officials said the accident was the worst in the city’s history.

State OSHA officials say there was no shoring of the trench to prevent the collapse.

Romero was married. "We had plans to retire in a few years, travel and enjoy our home,” his wife Rita told the television station. “And now that's over.”

Hern leaves three children, ages 14, 11 and 9. Travis Hern said he and his cousin were “inseparable.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Health and safety; OSHA

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (5/25/2011, 8:24 AM)

What a terrible, avoidable tragedy.

Comment from Otis Hale, (5/25/2011, 9:03 AM)

What a damn shame. This incident was completely preventable. Blind ignorance and expediency kill again.

Comment from Thomas Van Hooser, (5/25/2011, 4:04 PM)

Same accident - different people! Shame!

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