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OSHA: No jurisdiction in Dickinson trench cave-in

After nearly eight weeks of reviewing a fatal trench collapse on a construction site in northwest Dickinson, Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials said they do not have jurisdiction to proceed with the case.

"OSHA covers the employee-employer relationship," said Eric Brooks, Bismarck Area OSHA Office assistant director, Thursday. "We have a company who had employees. They weren't engaged in trenching operations."

Casimiro Medina, 39, of Salt Lake City, was working at the construction site for C. R. Petersen Inc., a concrete contractor from Salt Lake City, when the collapse occurred. Medina jumped in to help another man, after which a second collapse buried him and other employees. Medina died from his injuries, and two other men were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Dickinson.

Petersen hired Backyard Paradise LLC of Salt Lake City to do support work, Brooks said. Backyard Paradise was in charge of the excavation. The first trench collapse engulfed the employee Medina tried to help.

OSHA regulations require a trench have cave-in protection if it is more than 5 feet deep. If it had jurisdiction, the trench would have been in violation.

Since Medina was not working for Backyard Paradise, OSHA found it did not have jurisdiction to file a citation, Brooks said.

"Unfortunately in this case, if Casimiro had been more of a cold-hearted, uncaring, non-responding person, he'd probably be alive," he said. "But because he cared and because he responded to his fellow human being that was in trouble, that's the reason he lost his life."

Insurance companies and other organizations could get involved, Brooks said.

North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance in Bismarck has not received any claims regarding the incident. The companies involved could have had insurance out-of-state.

Since they were in the state for a short period of time, they may not have needed to get coverage through the WSI, officials said.

Edmunds Group LLC in Twin Falls, Idaho, is the developer of the site. Owner Ken Edmunds said it was a tragedy, but he has heard of no litigations. Construction is still in progress, he added.

Excavation protection is one of the most frequently cited standards within trenching operations, Brooks said.

"You need to be looking at those trenches and saying, 'Is this a trench, is this a safe excavation or is this a grave?'" he said.

The accident could have been prevented with the

proper installation, Brooks said, and it will not be easily forgotten.

"Whether or not we had jurisdiction, I have no doubt that all the companies and all the families that were involved are forever changed," he said. "I have every reason to believe that C. R. Petersen, Backyard Paradise and the Edmunds Group are going to remember this for the rest of their lives."

Medina's body has been transported back to his family in Salt Lake City. Family members were unavailable for comment. Backyard Paradise and Petersen were also unavailable for comment.