What started out as a rescue operation became a recovery operation when a responder found that Surjit Gill had no pulse. Between 50 and 60 responders worked for hours to make sure the trench was stable enough for recovery. Photo courtesy of Renton Regional Fire Authority.

What started out as a rescue operation became a recovery operation when a responder found that Surjit Gill had no pulse. Between 50 and 60 responders worked for hours to make sure the trench was stable enough for recovery. Photo courtesy of Renton Regional Fire Authority.

Man dies after trench collapse at construction site in Renton

King County Medical Examiner’s office ruled the man’s death was an accident.

  • By Bailey Jo Josie bailey.jo.josie@rentonreporter.com
  • Friday, September 9, 2022 1:05pm
  • Northwest

Rescue workers have recovered the body of a man who died after a trench collapsed at a construction site in Renton.

Surjit Gill, 36, died of compressional asphyxia Sept. 7 after being buried in 10 feet of dirt at a construction site, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s office, which ruled Gill’s death as an accident. Compressional asphyxia is caused when external pressure on the body prevents breathing.

It took responders hours to recover Gill’s body from the trench because of the danger of the trench’s depth, which was reported at 20 feet deep, according to Pat Pawlak, spokesperson for Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority.

A call was made at 12:51 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, saying that one person had been buried in trench at a construction site near Northeast 38th Street and Lincoln Avenue Northeast. By the time rescue operations had arrived, Gill had already been partially uncovered and responders found that he had no pulse, according to Pawlak.

Surjit Gill’s body was recovered at 8:35 p.m Sept. 7, although responders spent an additional couple of hours carefully removing plates and safety construction in the trench. Photo courtesy of Renton Regional Fire Authority.

Surjit Gill’s body was recovered at 8:35 p.m Sept. 7, although responders spent an additional couple of hours carefully removing plates and safety construction in the trench. Photo courtesy of Renton Regional Fire Authority.

Responders were able to remove the man from the trench around 8:35 p.m., which was almost eight hours later. But the work didn’t stop there — de-mobilization of the structures and plates that were put in place to prevent a second collapse took a couple more hours to take apart, Pawlak said.

“It was like putting a puzzle together,” Pawlak said of the recovery operations. “It was as tedious and dangerous to take it apart as it was putting it together.”

Public records describe the future site as being an 8-lot short plat with tall retaining walls and steep slopes with an installation of water, sewer and storm utilities, including an underground stormwater vault.

Records also show that the owners of the property are Gill Homes and Sapphire Development, while the construction company working at the site is AAA Contractors Inc.

The Renton Reporter reached out to both Gill Homes and AAA Contractors, who eaach gave no comment.

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is investigating the collapse to determine if the accident was caused by failures in safety protocols. A spokesperson for the department said the investigation could take up to six months or longer.

What started out as a rescue operation became a recovery operation when a responder found that Surjit Gill had no pulse. Between 50 and 60 responders worked for hours to make sure the trench was stable enough for recovery. Photo courtesy of Renton Regional Fire Authority.

What started out as a rescue operation became a recovery operation when a responder found that Surjit Gill had no pulse. Between 50 and 60 responders worked for hours to make sure the trench was stable enough for recovery. Photo courtesy of Renton Regional Fire Authority.




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