Autopsy: Pressure Of Wet Soil Killed Man In Trench
KENOSHA - A sewer construction worker who became trapped in a deep trench died from the pressure of the wet soil that inundated him despite efforts of rescuers to get him out, an autopsy showed Thursday.
Kenosha County Medical Examiner Mary Mainland said she determined that 52-year-old Juan Oviedo died from mechanical asphyxiation.
"It was the pressure of all that dirt and mud impeding his breathing," Mainland said, adding there was no evidence of drowning.
Capt. Jodin Froeber of the Somers Fire Department was the first rescuer to reach Oviedo after the emergency call at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday of the trench collapse.
Froeber, trained in trench collapse rescues as part of the Kenosha County Special Response Team, said when he arrived Oviedo was buried up to his neck at the bottom of the trench, about 25 to 30 feet below ground.
Two co-workers had fitted on oxygen mask on Oviedo's face and were working to keep more debris from falling on him.
Froeber said Oviedo spoke to him briefly, giving his name, which raised hopes that he could be removed safely.
New information into the trench collapse that killed construction worker Juan Oviedo: the responder who was first to the scene and the last to see him alive talked with TODAY’S TMJ4’s Melissa McCrady.
That responder insists he and his crew did everything right in trying to save Juan Oviedo from the trench, but he claims Mother Nature simply overpowered them.
Juan Oviedo is being remembered for the life he lived, not the tragic way he died.
“It’s just so hard to predict how these things are going to happen,” Town of Somers Fire Captain Joe Froeber said.
Fire Captain Joe Froeber was the first person in the trench.
“We were down there in time to see him. Initially he was buried up to a little under his neck but then the soil kept pouring in around him,” Froeber said.
Oviedo was laying a sewer line when the soil gave way. He was trapped 25 feet below ground and about 5 feet below the trench box.
Still, rescue crews say Oviedo was conscious and talking. In fact, Froeber thought they'd get him out, but 20 minutes later, the mood changed.
“We did our best to try to remove soil, but it was so quick and so fast we couldn't keep up with it,” Froeber said.
That's when Froeber lost sight of Oviedo and knew it was time to pull out.
“It's never easy to deal with,” Froeber said.
Oviedo worked for Oakes and Son Construction out of Racine.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, medical examiner and county authorities were on the scene to investigate.
As OSHA investigates, Oviedo’s family and friends are mourning his death.
Juan Oviedo was laying sewer pipe when he was killed. His death was a complete shock and his family is devastated.
Juan Oviedo was a veteran construction worker. It's the job he did to provide for his family.
"I think he was proud of the fact that he worked hard, earned what he got paid, and got to go home to his family every day. Until now,” Eric Richter, Juan Oviedo’s relative said.
Wednesday morning, Oviedo was killed while working for A.W. Oakes and Sons Construction. He was in a 25 foot trench when the soil caved in. Workers rushed to drain the water and push back the dirt. After two hours, the trench collapsed again.
“We’re always very optimistic, but sometimes we don’t always win,” Town of Somers Fire Chief Steven Krause said.
Oviedo was a father, a step dad and a grandpa. He had a long time girlfriend and lots of relatives.
"He did everything for his family,” Richter said.
His niece’s husband Eric Richter remembers his sense of humor, his big heart and his love of fixing up cars. Oviedo's tight knit family is leaning on one another.
"It's a large family. There's a large support base for everybody,” Richter said.
The Town of Somers Fire Chief said Juan's body was recovered late Wednesday night. It took workers several hours. The family has not made funeral arrangements yet.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.