A city employee’s actions were responsible for saving at least three lives when a trench collapsed on a contract employee last week, according to a city official.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin told city council Tuesday that even though the accident resulted in the fatality of a construction worker, “we’d be talking about four individuals” being victims if not for the direction of Shawn Adkins of the water and sewer department.
Contacted Wednesday, Wilkin elaborated, saying that during the sewer replacement work at the new fire station on Oct. 6, Adkins grew concerned when he noticed that four contract crew members were working in a deep trench. Wilkin said Adkins ordered them to vacate the trench.
“He told them, ‘Everybody out of the trench, we’re going to get a trench box,’” said Wilkin. A trench box is a steel structure designed to be lowered into a trench to protect workers while they perform their duties.
The order given by Adkins “took everyone out,” said Wilkin. “One guy happened to get back in,” said Wilkin, an employee later identified as Marcus Mennett. The trench collapsed, trapping Mennett, leading to a frantic effort to free him. Mennett died two days later at Miami Valley Hospital.
But without Adkins’ command, “we would have been talking about four individuals instead of one,” said Wilkin.
Wilkin, who choked up during his remarks to council on Tuesday, told council members that the past week was a difficult one for city employees, first because of the accidental death of city employee Seth McCoy’s son, followed by the entrapment and death of Mennett.
“I want to recognize the strength that we have all found in each other through the rough times we have experienced recently,” said Wilkin, adding that his prayers go out to both families.
Mayor Drew Hastings added his condolences, saying that if anything demonstrated the fact that the city and its employees are “definitely a family, it was last week.”
“It was pretty upsetting,” said Hastings. “Our heart goes out to them.” Council President Lee Koogler agreed, also offering condolences on behalf of council and expressing his appreciation for everyone’s efforts.
Wilkin said OSHA is still investigating the accident, but allowing the sewer replacement work to continue in the meantime.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.