Trench Wall Collapses

Gridley construction worker suffers serious injuries at city sewer project.

CHICO -- A Gridley construction worker suffered serious injuries Friday morning while working on the city of Chico sewer outfall project near the Sacramento River.

Philipe Gonzalez, an employee of Gateway Pacific Contractors, Inc. likely sustained a fractured pelvis and leg, after a portion of a dirt wall fell on him as he worked in a trench approximately 30 feet deep.

Cal Fire-Butte County Assistant Chief Rob Cone said Gonzalez and the crew with the Sacramento-based construction company were reportedly placing a concrete pipe in the trench, when Gonzalez stepped outside the large pipe to check the grading.

At that time, the dirt wall of the trench collapsed on top of Gonzalez, just near the entrance of the pipe.

His injuries as well as his unique position inside the pipe and the trench made it necessary for emergency workers to deploy a technical rescue, with firefighters stabilizing Gonzalez and ultimately pulling him from the construction site.

Although he was not present when the accident occurred, Jay Hall, Gateway Pacific project manager, arrived at the site near River Road shortly after the incident, identifying the injured worker as Gonzalez. Hall said Gonzalez has worked for the company for the past five years.

He was not able to provide Gonzalez's age, but did say he was from Gridley.

Hall said construction on the city project, which has been taking place since June, would be suspended Friday, pending an investigation by the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety.

The state agency was furloughed Friday and calls made for information were not immediately answered.

Tom Varga, capital services director for the city, said city staff would be involved in an investigation of the incident as well.

Varga said the city is working with Gateway Pacific and Carollo Engineers, a construction management firm, to determine the exact cause of the wall collapse.

Varga said the city would wait for the findings before determining how to best proceed with the project.

The $5.4 million project includes enlarging the pipe that transfers treated wastewater from the city's treatment plant to the Sacramento River, as well as moving the pipe downstream about 1,500 feet to avoid a gravel bar that may clog the system.

Varga said the accident Friday was "unfortunate" and noted the city has a strong relationship with Gateway Pacific.

"They have been a good company to work with," Varga said. "We're hoping this is just a rare, unfortunate accident."

Staff writer Toni Scott can be reached at 896-7767 or tscott@chicoer.com


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