Most New Yorkers probably assume that construction workers on skyscrapers have one of the most dangerous jobs possible. The reality is that workers who go below ground have a similarly dangerous job. When a trench caves in, the workers in the trench are at the mercy of gravity and the mass of the collapsing soil and rock. A recent accident at JFK Airport killed two workers who were buried when a trench collapsed without warning.
Port Authority Police received a call at 11:08 a.m. stating that two workers were stuck underneath construction rubble. The construction project is part of a mammoth $1.8 billion expansion project at the airport. The project involves two new terminals, expansion of two existing terminals and other infrastructure improvements.
The rescue attempts began at about 11:15 a.m. The Port Authority Emergency Services Unit, the airport fire department, and other emergency responders used an excavator, ropes, pulleys and chains. The bodies of the two men were pulled from the collapsed trench at approximately 1:00 p.m. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.
Other firms involved
As with most large construction projects, the expansion at JFK involves several large construction firms. Media reports did not immediately indicate which of the firms employed the workers who died in the accident. Further investigation is required to determine how the accident happened. A thorough investigation will determine the name of the decedents’ employers and whether any other firms were involved in the accident.
The workers’ families will have claims for survivors’ benefits under New York’s workers’ compensation statutes. Depending on the results of the investigation, the families may also have third-party claims against any firm whose employees were involved in the accident.
Taking additional action
As noted at the outset of this post, the U.S. Labor Department, through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, has confirmed that trench deaths are one of the leading causes of fatalities in the construction industry. In 2022, 39 workers were killed in trench accidents, more than double the 15 who were killed in all of 2021. Anyone who has lost a loved one under similar circumstances may wish to consult an experienced construction accident attorney for an evaluation of the evidence and assistance in making a claim.