Utility worker killed in San Francisco trench collapse

A utility worker trapped under a mound of dirt died Thursday morning, despite furious efforts by San Francisco fire crews to rescue him.

After more than two hours of digging around a collapsed trench on the 1100 block of Divisidero Street, Fire Lt. Jonathan Baxter confirmed the man's death.

"Over 50 firefighters working together to effectively reach the individual, evaluate the individual for signs of life, and unfortunately two hours into this incident we are naming this a fatal incident," said Baxter.

The cause of the trench collapse, which buried the worker under about eight feet of dirt in the NoPa neighborhood around 10:30 a.m., remains unclear.

The deceased utility worker was working on the city's Panhandle and Inner Sunset Large Sewer Rehabilitation Project. The purpose of the project is to upgrade or replace existing sewer mains.

The Department of Public Works oversees the project and contracted D’Arcy & Harty Construction Inc. for the assignment.

Image 1 of 4

San Francisco firefighters hover over a trench where a utility worker is trapped. Sept. 28, 2023

The worker who died was employed with D’Arcy & Harty Construction Inc.

The tragic outcome of what started as a rescue operation left the victim's colleagues devastated. Firefighters involved in the rescue and recovery efforts also appeared somber at the outcome.

The police department and Cal/OSHA launched parallel investigations to assess the tragedy.

"We don't know what caused this trench collapse at this point. That's something that we're looking at what happened trying to make sure that something like this never happens again," said Rachel Gordon, deputy director at DPW.

Firefighters shared video of a white vacuum truck deployed to suck out dirt and debris from the hole and a pulley poised to pull the worker out.

Before the man was pronounced dead, firefighters were seen over the hole, shouting, "OK!" and "Go! Go!"

Aerial footage showed crews of workers in yellow jackets and firefighters surrounding the area in order to help get the person out safely. 

Onlookers crowded outside a laundromat across the street, watching crews work.