Luciano Gonzalez Munoz, a 45-year-old man from Puebla, Mexico, died yesterday, Dec. 19, after the soil around a swimming pool being constructed in the backyard of a home in Orange collapsed on him, not once but twice.
The victim was in the hole when the soil from the top slipped down on him. The home has a backyard that backs up to a cliff.
The victim was part of a crew of four or five workers.
The City of Orange firefighters responded to the scene, at the 6200 block of Cliffway Drive, just after 10:40 a.m. When they arrived the found that the man was buried shoulder deep at the bottom of a nine to ten foot hole in the ground. The firefighters began trying to do what is referred to as a trench rescue.
After the firefighters had been working on the rescue effort for about a half hour another collapse completely buried the victim and they were no longer able to communicate with him.
The rescue operation then became a body recovery operation. At that point the O.C. Coroner was summoned and the incident was reported to Cal/OSHA. As this was a construction site, Cal/OSHA will conduct a formal investigation.
Update – the body was recovered on Dec. 20, with the help of a construction crane. The victim has not yet been identified by the OC Coroner.
Cal/OSHA has a standard regarding Excavations. The regulation dictates how workers in excavations must be protected. What has happened in similar incidents is the dirt removed from the excavation is placed too close to the excavation, creating the hazard that it might fall back in.
If the victim’s employer did not properly assess the job site, protect the workers and train them they could be looking at serious or perhaps even willful violations. Because this was a work-related accident the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier will likely have to pay the victim’s family a death benefit which could total $320,000 for three or more total dependents.
If Cal/OSHA determines that the employer was liable and negligent the family of the victim could retain a lawyer and pursue a civil claim as well.
About 75 rescuers from the Orange and Huntington Beach Fire Departments, Anaheim Fire and Rescue, the Orange County Fire Authority and the Orange City Water Department were on the scene.