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The Suburbanite
  • Cause of Jackson trench collapse still under investigation

  • As federal investigators try to determine what led to a Canton man’s death Tuesday following a trench collapse in Jackson Township, a lawyer who specializes in excavating accidents says most are caused by a violation of safety regulations.

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  • More questions than answers surround Tuesday’s deadly trench collapse in the 7900 block of Cheryl Lane Street NW, which claimed the life of 50-year-old Scott K. Beatty of Canton and injured his son.
    Local officials say the banks of a trench can collapse for various reasons. And when it does give way, the weight of the dirt can crush a person.
    Stark County Engineer Keith Bennett said Wednesday that a collapse of any magnitude sends tons of dirt into the trench — swiftly.
    Federal safety investigators continue to investigate. Was the soil unstable? Was it wet? Were safety measures — trench boxes and/or retention walls — put in place? Was the hole sloped properly?
    So far, there are no answers.
    Attorney Craig Bashein, whose Cleveland-based firm specializes in litigating excavation accidents, said a cave-in usually is due to a violation of safety regulations, either by the company or individuals.
    Bashein handles about a dozen of these cases annually.
    “You don’t always see a fatality,” he said.
    In Tuesday’s accident, Beatty died when the sides of the trench collapsed on him and his 24-year-old son, Scott Jr.
    The younger Beatty was rescued and survived.
    The elder Beatty was buried 15 feet beneath the surface in compacted sandy soil. His body was pulled from the hole by rescue crews roughly three hours after the cave-in occurred.
    Bennett said the type of soil — clay or small grains, such as sand — could create conditions for a possible collapse; when those grains are loose, they “flow like water.”
    Bennett also said the weight of heavy equipment near a trench could cause the dirt to give way. And he said weather could play a role, too. If a frozen layer of soil thaws, the water from it could loosen the soil, he said.
    However, he said, most companies guard against collapses with retention walls and/or trench boxes.
    The Beattys were hunting for a sewer connector in the trench when it collapsed. Both were working for Bontrager Excavating of Uniontown on a sewer construction project.
    It is unclear whether the company was in compliance and installed safeguards. Company officials declined comment on Wednesday.
    Beatty’s estranged wife, Laura Beatty, said her husband was a supervisor, operating an excavator, but was always willing to lend a hand in the trenches at construction projects.
    He was “damn good” at his job, she said.
    Scotty Beatty Jr. remains in Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, recuperating from his injuries. He has dirt in his lungs, said Laura Beatty, who is his stepmother.
    Tuesday’s accident is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Agency officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.