A subcontractor working in a trench outside a Belton home likely died when the trench walls caved in on him Thursday, according to Belton Fire Chief Norman Larkey.
“It’s a very, very slim chance,” Larkey said of the man’s chances of survival. “It happened so suddenly, and the dirt packs the person in. It’s hard to get into a void space. I’m not saying he didn’t (survive), but it’s unlikely that he did.”
Two subcontractors who specialize in connecting sewer lines were digging a new line for a home in the 600 block of Emerson Drive on Thursday morning. One of the subcontractors had climbed into the 12-foot-deep trench when the walls caved in.
“It’s very emotional,” Larkey said. “The family is here. We have our local pastor with them.”
Larkey said the rescue team could not get air to the man because the dirt is packed so densely.
“If there’s a void down there, he could have crawled into that,” Larkey said, but he likely would have run out of air shortly after he was buried.
The Belton Fire Department first responded to the scene. The Kansas City Fire Department’s Rescue Division was also called to the scene and was working to reach the trapped man.
The process, though, could take as long as eight hours, Larkey said. The firefighters are using a method called shoring, in which they dig in stages using plastic struts to secure the trench walls and prevent them from caving in further.
At about 3:15 p.m., the rescue team had dug about a quarter of the way, 3 feet, to the man. They are digging by hand with gardening spades because the earth is packed so tightly.
When Belton firefighters arrived on the scene, they encountered the trapped subcontractor’s partner attempting to dig him out. Larkey said they stopped the subcontractor from digging because it could cause further caving in of the trench.
Larkey was unsure how long the subcontractor had been buried when Belton fire arrived on scene.