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Construction worker dies after trench wall collapses on him

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A 51-year-old construction worker was killed when a trench wall collapsed and hundreds of pounds of wet soil fell on the man.

In a news release, the Lakeville Police Department says Gerald Lyle Thompson was working on the residential construction site on the 9000 block of 179th Street around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday in Lakeville.

Thopmson, of Apple Valley, was working with his brother Tuesday afternoon – both are affiliated with DSM Excavating of Hastings.

Drain tile was being installed on the perimeter of the lot, police say, when a wall of the trench collapsed on to Thompson. The amount of soil that fell on to the man reportedly weighed about as much as a small car, according to police, and was wet at the time.

His brother and other nearby workers tried to rescue him, but were forced out of the trench by collapsing soil.

First responders were called, and there they found a man trapped in the bottom of the 6- to 8-foot-deep trench.

The area was too unstable for police and fire officials to mount an immediate rescue as well, and had to wait until the trench wall was stabilized.

At that point, a fire fighter was lowered to the man with an excavator, but the man was deceased. It took two hours for recovery teams to dig away the sides of the trench. The victim's body was recovered around 7 p.m.

The site was made safe before responders left the scene.

Lakeville police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will investigate the cause. More information is expected Wednesday.

According to OSHA statistics, there were 4,101 worker fatalities in the private sector in 2013 – and of those, one-fifth (828) came in the construction industry.

Falls (302), being struck by an object (84), electrocution (71), and getting caught in or between things (21) were the top four causes of death for construction workers that year.

In the past 10 years, across all job industries, OSHA figures show 15 people were killed when a wall collapsed.

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