Vaughn Kopetsky regularly visited area flea markets on Sundays, searching for treasures with his brother.
On Sunday, the pair made their weekly rounds — traveling to one in Fayette County before heading north to Jonnet Flea Market in Indiana County.
“He loved going to flea markets,” Ricky Kopetsky of Unity Township said of his brother. “He liked old Christmas stuff.”
Vaughn Kopetsky, 60, died Monday in a Rostraver trench collapse while working for R.A. Monzo Construction, according to investigators. Kopetsky of Derry had held the job for 30 years, his brother said.
“He was dedicated to his job,” Ricky Kopetsky said. “He would spend weekends on his own time” preparing for the work week ahead.
Investigators said Kopetsky was working on a storm sewer system project in an 8-foot-deep trench in the 200 block of Country Drive at 3:25 p.m. Monday when the walls collapsed, trapping him as he tried to escape. A metal safety box was inside the ditch, but the collapse occurred in an unsupported area as Kopetsky used a ladder to climb out, police said
Co-workers dug out Kopetsky, but he died at the scene, according to a news release from the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office.
The township contracted with R.A. Monzo Construction to install and replace storm drains, according to solicitor Al Gaudio. A message left with the construction company Tuesday was not returned.
R.A. Monzo Construction has no prior citations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the agency's online database.
Township police and OSHA are investigating. Police could not be reached for comment.
OSHA requires trenches 5 feet or deeper to use a protective system unless the excavation site is entirely in stable rock. For trenches less than 5 feet deep, a “competent” person may determine that a protective system is not required, its website states.
Two workers are killed every month in trench collapses, an agency fact sheet states. In 2016, 23 American workers died and 12 were injured in collapses.
Kopetsky, an Army veteran, and his brother would usually talk by phone during the week after their Sunday flea market jaunts. He regularly was the “first guy down in the hole” on the job and had a commercial driver's license to operate heavy machinery, his brother said.
“Whatever they needed him to do,” Ricky Kopetsky said, mentioning his brother's honest attitude. “He was an up-front guy. He would tell you the way it was.”
He is survived by siblings in the area. An autopsy was planned Tuesday. A funeral home had not been chosen.
Kopetsky's death was the second in three months because of a trench collapse in the county.
On Feb. 22, an 18-year-old working with his father in nearby South Huntingdon died when a 10-foot-deep trench collapsed, burying him in tons of soil.
Adam Skokut Jr. suffocated after the trench walls collapsed as he and his father installed a septic system at a home in their neighborhood outside Smithton, authorities said. Rescuers had to secure the walls of the trench before they could start retrieval efforts.
OSHA officials have not released a report on that accident.
Westmoreland County Coroner, Kenneth A. Bacha, has released the following information on a trench collapse fatality that occurred in Rostraver Township.
The decedent, Vaughn L. Kopetsky, 60 y/o male from Derry Township, was working within a trench replacing a storm drainage system. The decedent was in the process of exiting the trench when a wall of the trench collapsed, trapping the decedent within the soil. Co-workers began to dig and extricated the decedent from the trench. Emergency medical personnel responded to the scene, however all life saving measures were unsuccessful. Deputy Coroner Timothy P. O’Donnell pronounced the decedent dead at the scene. An autopsy will be performed on May 23, 2017. Official cause and manner of death will be pending autopsy results. Toxicology results will not be available for several weeks. A funeral home has not been selected at this time. Rostraver Township Police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also investigated.===================
Officials are still trying to determine what led to a deadly trench collapse in Westmoreland County on Monday.
Investigators said the victim, Vaughn Kopetsky, 60, was working in the trench along County Drive in Rostraver Township.
Officials said crews were installing pipe in the ground at the time to enlarge the existing storm sewer. The $119,000-project has been in the works for about two years.
Officials said Kopetsky was using a ladder to climb out of the trench and an unsupported wall around him collapsed.
Relatives said Kopetsky worked for RA Monzo for 30 years. His brother said Vaughn liked collecting guns and antique Christmas decorations. The two went to flea markets just about every weekend.
Officials with OSHA said there were no updates on Tuesday and they're working through the investigation. A search of online records turned up no prior accusations against RA Monzo Construction.
An engineer for the project said he's not sure when work will resume or if the company has to wait until OSHA's investigation is complete. Stay with Channel 11 News and WPXI.com for continuing coverage.
THE DEATH OF A DERRY TOWNSHIP MAN IN A TRENCH IS UNDER INVESTIGATION BY LOCAL AND FEDERAL AUTHORITIES. INVESTIGATORS SAY 60-YEAR-OLD VAUGHN KOPETSKY WAS KILLED MONDAY AFTERNOON WHEN A STORM SEWER TRENCH HE WAS WORKING IN SUDDENLY COLLAPSED. THE WESTMORELAND COUNTY CORONER’S OFFICE SAYS KOPETSKY TRIED ESCAPING, AND HIS COWORKERS TRIED HARD TO DIG HIM OUT, BUT KOPETSKY WAS PRONOUNCED DEAD AT THE SCENE. ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP POLICE AND INVESTIGATORS WITH THE OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION ARE NOW INVESTIGATING.