Fire crews describe recovering bodies of trench collapse victims

Fifty firefighters from Saint Paul and Minneapolis worked into the early hours of Saturday morning to recover two construction workers who died Friday afternoon.

ST PAUL, Minnesota — On Saturday, fire crews in St. Paul were back at the scene of a trench collapse that killed two construction workers Friday afternoon.

St. Paul Deputy Fire Chief Roy Mokosso said about 50 firefighters from St. Paul and Minneapolis worked at the scene for just over 12 hours Friday. They dug the ground and picked up victims until the early hours of Saturday morning, leaving an hour after picking up their last victim, at 3:30 a.m.

“It was a long and difficult process,” Mokosso said.

Mokosso said shortly after receiving the call around 2:30 p.m. and arriving at the scene, they realized the victims had died.

“Just the weight of the ground, the crushing and potential asphyxiation and the time that had already passed, we knew it was going to be a recovery effort and we went into that mode,” Mokosso said.

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They first had to stabilize the trench to prevent further collapse, put shoring in place, and work slowly to remove the dirt with hand tools.

“Responders stayed in the trench for over six hours with the first casualty, sweeping the dirt away, putting it in the buckets, which were removed from the trench,” he said. “You cannot use power tools because you can cause further collapse. You cannot use heavy equipment. You must use small hand tools and your hands to move dirt towards the person you are rescuing or , in some cases, , the deceased victim.”

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On Saturday, onlookers laid flowers on a mound of dirt that piled up outside the trench, as fire crews removed the tools they had used the night before.

“[It’s a] very heavy emotional toll for the speakers,” Mokosso said. “Very heavy and dark.”

Mokosso said the two people killed were not city contractors and had no information about the construction group or private company that hired them.

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