Two workers believed dead after trench collapses in St. Paul

Two construction workers were believed killed Friday when a trench they were working in collapsed in St. Paul.

The collapse happened about 3 pm at the intersection of Pinehurst Avenue and Mount Curve Boulevard in the Highland Park neighborhood. Fire crews were told that two workers were trapped when the walls of the trench they were working in gave way.

By Friday evening, considering the amount of time that had passed and the amount of material that had collapsed, the crews transitioned from a rescue to a recovery mission.

“Too much time had simply elapsed,” Assistant Fire Chief Matt Simpson told FOX 9 news. The recovery effort continued into the night.

Neighbors said the construction had been going on for about two months. An apartment building adjacent to the trench also appeared to be under construction. Many observers stood watch over the scene as firefighters stabilized the trench and tried to free the workers.

“It’s just absolutely tragic,” St. Paul City Council Member Chris Tolbert said as he headed to the scene. “We’re praying for a miracle. Our fire department is the best at what they do, but like I said, we’re just praying for a miracle.”

Officials have not released the names of those in the trench or the company that employed them. Crews from St. Paul police and fire departments and St. Paul public works were among those involved in the rescue effort.

The National Utility Contractors Association noted that June is “Trench Safety Month,” reminding businesses about safe practices as the busy construction season begins. About a dozen workers were killed in trench collapses nationwide in each of the past two years, according to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

An investigator with OSHA was at the scene of Friday’s collapse.

Staff writer Katie Galioto contributed to this report.

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