Arundel man found dead after trench caves in He was laying pipe near his home in Crownsville.

March 16, 1992|By Peter Hermann and Bruce Reid | Peter Hermann and Bruce Reid,Staff Writers

CROWNSVILLE 5/8 5/8 HC IFB — CROWNSVILLE -- Anne Arundel County firefighters recovered the body today of a 32-year-old man who was buried under 6 feet of dirt after an unshored trench caved in.

The body was found at 3:19 a.m. and removed from the 20-foot-deep, 6-foot-wide trench about an hour later, said Officer V. Richard Molloy, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman.

Officer Molloy identified the victim as Aaron Roger Duckworth of the 700 block of Old Herald Harbor Road. He said the man, also known as "Skip," worked as a handyman in the Crownsville area.

An official with the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration said today his agency was trying to determine whether state worker-safety regulations would apply, given the seemingly private nature of the work.

"Whether he [Mr. Duckworth] was just doing this on his own -- we're still trying to determine that," said Doug Wallis, operations supervisor for the state occupational safety agency. Safety regulations governing the digging of trenches normally apply to operations in which there is an employer-employee relationship, he said.

Generally, Mr. Wallis said, the regulations require walls of trenches deeper than 5 feet to be supported to prevent cave-ins.

"We've already established that there were no safeguards," he said. Workers normally use steel plates or boards during such work to prevent cave-ins. He added that investigators would take several days to gather information about the accident.

Mr. Duckworth, who lived alone, was working with several other men to install sewer pipe to a trailer in which he was living, authorities said. The cave-in occurred about 3 p.m. yesterday.

Finding and removing the body was "a very tedious operation," Officer Molloy said. "Firefighters were bringing dirt up one bucket at a time."

Firefighters needed more than four hours to remove excess dirt from the ditch and shore up its sides.

Although the 200-foot-long trench was 20 feet deep, Officer Molloy said, only part of it collapsed and buried Mr. Duckworth.

Roger Myers, who lives at the home on Old Herald Harbor Road, said Mr. Duckworth 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 fire officials said the man had been working in the trench with three men from the Myers family's backhoe company.

Capt. Gary Sheckells, a fire department spokesman, said the three other 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.

But as darkness set in and the police had been unable to find Mr. Duckworth, fire officials were pretty sure they would find a body.

Mr. Myers said Mr. Duckworth had lived in the area several years and did odd jobs for the family.

He said 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.

Captain Sheckells said the trench was 26 feet deep in one place, and was not properly shored and had no sloped sides.

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 in Crofton Village. 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 Davidsonville company.

In addition, the state last summer fined the firm $16,950 in connection with the accident.

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