Trench cave-in survivor talks to News10NBC about experience

CHILI, N.Y. (WHEC) — The devastating trench collapse in Chili has opened emotional wounds for one local man.

Eric Giguere told News10NBC he was brought back to life after a similar incident in 2002.

Giguere said he feels like a walking miracle. For the last 19 years, he’s devoted his life to safety and awareness specifically for trench construction. He’s been traveling across the country to share his story and tips.

"A six-foot unprotected trench is a grave, it’s a grave, and most people don’t make it out so I’m very lucky to make it out,” Giguere said.

After hearing about the deadly trench collapse in Chili, it was 2002 for Giguere all over again.

"I understand what their family is dealing with now, it’s disheartening to me, it’s a loss of life that didn’t need to happen.”

Giguere said only six days after getting married he was trying to install a water line, in a six and a half foot trench in Benton when all of a sudden, it caved in.

"People grabbed shovels and started to dig, it took about 10 minutes to get to me," Giguere said. "They thought I was dead, I had no pulse, blue in the face, dirt in my nose and mouth so they cleaned out my mouth and started giving me CPR."

Since his accident, he has spent more than a decade educating groups on trench safety. We asked him what type of things can cause dirt to cave in.

"Pre-disturbed soil, soil that’s already dug in, around a house, that can cause a collapse, water, we’ve had a lot of rain in our area lately, so the ground is saturated with water, vibration, getting equipment too close to the edge of the bank,” Giguere said.

Trench and excavation is one of the top topics on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website. OSHA requires a protective system to be put in place for any trench that’s more than five feet deep. The death in Chili was in a 15-foot trench. It was not clear whether any protectives like a trench box were being used at the time.

"You can what’s called sloping or benching the bank, you can cut it back so it comes down gradually, so if it does cave in on the sides it can’t fall into the trench,” Giguere added.

News10NBC did ask OSHA officials about their investigation into the Chili accident. We were told a Rapid Response Investigation (RRI) did not apply to this case. OSHA said they were notified by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and is inspecting Fallone Properties. OSHA also told us that employers are required to report fatalities to them within eight hours.