Trench That Collapsed, Killing Man, Did Not Have Required Wall

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ALTOONA, Iowa -- Emergency crews have recovered the body of a man trapped inside a trench in a residential area in Altoona.

Altoona police say 30-year-old Justin Jorgensen, of Colfax, was killed after the trench he was working in collapsed just after 8 a.m. Wednesday. It took crews more than six hours to recover his body.

“Initially, it came out as a rescue but once we got on scene we could tell by visual cues that this was going to turn into a recovery,” Altoona Police Sgt. Jason Ferguson said.

Jorgensen was working in the trench that was between 10 and 12 feet deep with an excavating tool when the dirt caved in. The collapse happened while workers were digging water and sewer lines.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations require there to be a trench wall in areas more than 5 feet deep. The trench Jorgensen was working in did not have a trench wall, authorities said.

OSHA officials said it will take weeks before the investigation is complete and a citation could be issued.

Jorgensen was employed by JRS Excavating, located in St. Charles, where family friends say he worked with his brother.

The Altoona police and fire departments were assisted by the Des Moines Fire Department, Polk County Emergency Management, Polk County Medical Examiner’s Office, Iowa Department of Labor and the Salvation Army.

Two similar accidents happened last year that claimed two lives.

Brian Powell, 31, was trapped after rain caused a trench to collapse at a construction site in Story City last June. Firefighters pulled Powell out, but he died a week later.

In August, 49-year-old William Patterson, of Otho, died after the ground gave way while he was working on a sewer line in Fort Dodge.

In similar cases, hefty fines are issued in hopes companies will follow the rules.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Justin Jorgensen's family pay for funeral expenses.