CROWNSVILLE -- Anne Arundel County firefighters were searching last night for a man believed buried beneath 6 feet of dirt after a cave-in behind a home in Crownsville.
The man, identified by acquaintances as Aaron "Skip" Duckworth, was believed to be dead, fire officials said.
"We don't feel that anyone would be alive with the amount of dirt that has fallen in," said Capt. Gary Sheckells, a spokesman for the county fire department.
But early today, after nearly 11 hours of effort to shore up the trench and dig in search of the man, firefighters and rescue workers had found no trace of a body.
Fire officials said they planned to continue rescue efforts through the night.
Mr. Duckworth had been working in a 12-foot-deep trench, laying sewer pipe, all afternoon before the dirt caved in about 3 p.m.
Roger Myers, who lives at the home in the 700 block of Old Herald Harbor Road, said Mr. Duckworth, who was in his 30s, had been laying pipe to connect a sewer line to the small green-and-white trailer he rented from the Myers family.
He said that Mr. Duckworth was working alone in the ditch when it caved in, but Captain Sheckells said Mr. Duckworth had been working in the 200-foot-long trench with three men from the Myers family's backhoe company.
Captain Sheckells said the three workers went inside a nearby trailer for a coffee break and Mr. Duckworth stayed behind.
When the workers came out, the sides of the ditch where the man was working had caved in.
Fire and police officials had expressed hope early in the afternoon that Mr. Duckworth had simply wandered off and was alive.
"Hopefully, the county police will find the man," Captain Sheckells said.
"He might have just wandered off to get a cup of coffee. He is known to wander off."
But as darkness set in and the police had been unable to locate Mr. Duckworth elsewhere, fire officials were pretty sure they would find a body.
Mr. Myers said Mr. Duckworth had lived in the area for several years and did odd jobs for the family, which also runs a dog kennel on the property.
He said that the family allowed Mr. Duckworth to live in the trailer and that the man was digging a trench so he could have a working toilet.
It took firefighters more than four hours to remove excess dirt from the ditch and shore up its sides, to avoid another accident when they entered the trench to dig in search of the man's body.
Captain Sheckells said that the trench was 26 feet deep in one place, and that it was not properly shored and had no sloped sides.
Officials from the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office were on the scene last night, investigating the apparent accident.
Another Anne Arundel cave-in last year killed 21-year-old Brian James Para, a plumber's apprentice who was laying sewer and water lines for a new home when the ditch in which he was standing collapsed.
He died at the Crofton Village scene from massive internal injuries.
Last week, Ronald Razzano, 41, of Bowie, president of Razzano and Fohner Inc., was indicted by a grand jury on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Mr. Para worked for the firm, located in Davidsonville.
In addition, the state last summer fined the firm $16,950 in connection with the accident.
The state charged that the firm failed to protect the ditch from a cave-in by securing its sides.