The person trapped in a trench collapse died Tuesday at a construction site on Tucson's north side, according to the Tucson Fire Department.

Trevor Laky, spokesman for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, said Wednesday, “We are investigating reports that we received of a fatality." 

The site is on North Stone Avenue near East River Road, said Tucson Fire Department spokeswoman Jessica Nolte.

The victim was turned over to the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, the fire department said.

A firefighter was injured during the rescue operation. They remain in stable condition at a hospital as of Wednesday evening.

A second firefighter was also treated for “other medical-related issues” and released.

Authorities did not release the name or gender of the person removed from the trench, but a witness said Tuesday he was told it was a man who was trapped.

Bryan Castle, who works at Defy Tucson, said he was outside talking on the phone when he witnessed workers scrambling and screaming to “dig.”

“My first thought was that they hit a water line or hit something,” Castle said. “As I got closer, I could see that they were panicked and that’s when the guy on the backhoe said, ‘A man’s buried alive in there.’”

After calling 911, Castle joined three other workers attempting to rescue the person.

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“The workers found his hair. They were trying to clear to get to his face,” said Castle, who had exited the trench to provide the workers with more shovels.

They were unable to expose any other part of the person’s body during the rescue effort, Castle added.

Firefighters then took over the rescue, going into the trench shortly after 12:30 p.m.

“Thankfully they did a good job of getting their first firefighter secured, because he went down there to try to get the other (worker) out and put the harness on the guy and it hit another firefighter,” said Castle.

Castle said the workers were conducting sewer work when the trench collapsed.

“One (worker) told me he turned to hand the first piece of pipe to the guy and when he turned around, the guy was gone, buried,” Castle said. “It happened that fast.”


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.