Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Two workers died Tuesday after getting trapped inside a 20-foot deep culvert at the John C. Holland landfill in Suffolk, VA

2 workers dead after becoming trapped inside concrete pipe at Suffolk landfill

By Scott Daugherty
The Virginian-Pilot


Two workers died Tuesday after getting trapped inside a vertical concrete pipe at the John C. Holland landfill, according to a city spokeswoman.

The landfill employees were identified as Eric O’Brien Williams, 35, of Portsmouth and Stephen Louis Wilk, 60, of Moyock, N.C.

What exactly happened at the privately owned landfill remains unclear. City spokeswoman Diana Klink said she did not know, but the Suffolk Police Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.

The cause of death wasn’t known, she added.

A man in a truck outside the landfill’s office who identified himself as “the person in charge right now” declined to comment.

Suffolk Police at the entrance to the John C. Holland Landfill in Suffolk Tuesday afternoon, Oct.18, 2016, where two workers died when they were trapped in a concrete pipe. Bill Tiernan | The Virginian-Pilot

Dispatchers received a call about the incident at 4801 Nansemond Pkwy. shortly after 11 a.m.

According to Klink, the men were trapped inside a vertical concrete pipe, or culvert, that was 20 feet deep and 3 feet wide.

Technical rescue crews from Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake responded to the 70-acre landfill, which was cited for another worker’s death in 2000.

Klink said rescue workers needed four-wheel-drive vehicles to reach the scene.

Family members of at least one of the victims gathered Tuesday afternoon at a church about a half-mile away. They met with police and paramedics. Several were crying.

A Suffolk detective said the family didn’t want to talk to reporters.

Two workers died at the John C. Holland landfill in Suffolk on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016. City of Suffolk photo

According to OSHA, another employee of the landfill died March 10, 2000, while he and a co-worker installed wooden support blocks under a bulldozer. The workers lifted a wooden support beam to place it on top of two other beams.

The 18-year-old employee who died was straddling the beam and shoving it into place when he lost his balance and fell forward. He became wedged between the beam and the belly of the bulldozer and suffered crushing injuries to his chest. He died before medics could arrive 10 minutes later.

Police at the time described the death of Brian G. Dedmond as an accident.

According to online records, OSHA issued the landfill a violation related to medical services and/or first aid in July 2000. The case was closed – and marked “abated” – the following month. No fines were listed.

In late 2011, the president of the landfill entered into a consent order with the state regarding several environmental problems. In all, he agreed to pay $15,000 to the state and $35,000 to the city.