Federal officials investigating deadly trench collapse in northern Colorado

Photo courtesy: Windsor Severance Fire and Rescue
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WINDSOR, Colo. (KKTV) - Federal officials are now investigating after two Colorado construction workers were killed in a trench collapse.

The men were 15 feet down installing a sewer pipe at a new home construction site in Windsor Tuesday when the trench gave way, burying them in dirt. Rescue crews worked for hours to reach the men, who survived the initial collapse; at one point workers were about to get specialized equipment to one of the victims so he could talk to his family. Rescue crews were never able to communicate with the second victim.

The rescue efforts took more than seven hours, with crews forced to dig out the workers by hand due to soil conditions.

"The excavation had to be conducted by hand using small shovels and buckets to remove the soil from around the workers. Since the ground is both unstable and compacted around the trapped workers, extreme caution to cause no further harm to those trapped, nor the emergency response personnel on scene was paramount to the operation," said Windsor Severance Fire Rescue in a Facebook post.

But when first responders reached the men shortly before 10 p.m., both had succumbed to their injuries.

The rescue operation then switched to a recovery operation as responders worked for another several hours to pull the bodies out of the trench. The entire operation from the moment Windsor Severance got the 911 call to when the bodies were recovered took nearly 13 hours.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed Thursday it was investigating the deaths but did not elaborate further. According to an OSHA factsheet, trenches 5 feet or deeper must have some sort of protective system in place unless the excavation is being done in stable rock. It's unclear if a protective system was in place at the time of Tuesday's accident.

The workers have been identified as 26-year-old Cristopher Ramirez of Boulder and 41-year-old Jorge Baez Valadez of Denver.