Work was ‘ur­gent’ in trench col­lapse

Con­trac­tor was re­pair­ing pipe­line from pool at city’s re­quest in fa­tal ac­ci­dent

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Ni­cholas Bo­gel-Bur­roughs Bal­ti­more Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this ar­ti­cle. nbo­gel­bur­roughs@balt­ twit­­at­news

The con­trac­tor work­ing in North­east Bal­ti­more when a 20-year-old man was killed in a trench col­lapse last week was com­plet­ing “ur­gent” re­pairs to a drainage line run­ning from a city pool.

City of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly de­clined to pro­vide de­tails about the sewer work that R.F. Warder Inc. was per­form­ing when the 15-foot trench caved in, killing Kyle Han­cock of Glen Burnie. But a work or­der ob­tained by The Bal­ti­more Sun shows that a city re­cre­ation of­fi­cial re­quested that work­ers clear the line at the Clifton Park Pool and marked the job “ur­gent.” The pool is sched­uled to open for the sum­mer on June 23.

The or­der shows that on May 16, a Depart­ment of Re­cre­ation and Parks of­fi­cial re­quested a con­trac­tor to blast through a clog in the line. A city of­fi­cial as­signed the job to R.F. Warder on May 29.

A crew from the com­pany was at­tempt­ing to clear the line on June 5 when the trench col­lapsed. Mary­land Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health is in­ves­ti­gat­ing. Their probe is ex­pected to take sev­eral weeks.

Com­pany rep­re­sen­ta­tives have de­clined to com­ment since Han­cock’s death.

Erin Sher Smyth, the city’s pur­chas­ing agent, said of­fi­cials will give state in­ves­ti­ga­tors a CD of doc­u­ments re­lated to the com­pany’s work with the city.

Fire of­fi­cials have said the trench in the 2000 block of Sin­clair Lane had no pro­tec­tive shoring. A fed­eral law re­quires pro­tec­tion for work­ers in trenches more than five feet deep.

Res­cue per­son­nel re­moved two other work­ers who were try­ing to dig the 20-yearold out. Res­cuers dug more than 20 feet down to re­trieve Han­cock’s body dur­ing a 10-hour re­cov­ery ef­fort.

Smyth wrote to con­trac­tor Robert F. Warder Jr. that ini­tial re­ports of the in­ci­dent in­di­cated that Han­cock’s death re­sulted from the com­pany’s “fail­ure to com­ply with safety re­quire­ments re­lat­ing to trench­ing.”

The city has sus­pended all work with R.F. Warder Inc., cit­ing “life safety con­cerns,” Smyth wrote, and the city will ex­am­ine the com­pany’s “ap­par­ent breach” of its con­tract.

The sus­pen­sion af­fects two con­tracts au­tho­riz­ing R.F. Warder to main­tain chilled wa­ter sys­tems, sewer lines and heat­ing sys­tems.

The city will ex­am­ine whether any city em­ployee had a role in the in­ci­dent, wit­nessed it, or was at the scene of the work, city so­lic­i­tor An­dre M. Davis said.

Ex­perts in work­place com­pli­ance and trench work have said that state in­ves­ti­ga­tors will try to de­ter­mine whether there was an R.F. Warder em­ployee at the site who knew the rel­e­vant safety reg­u­la­tions, could iden­tify haz­ards and had the au­thor­ity to cor­rect any haz­ards, as fed­eral reg­u­la­tions re­quire.

The state of­fice of the chief medical ex­am­iner ruled Han­cock’s death an ac­ci­dent.

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