Harold Foote of Middleton owned the company working on a drain pipe trench that partially collapsed near Franklin Boulevard outside Nampa last weekend. So, there is no employer-employee relationship on which the federal agency can focus a workplace investigation, a spokesman said.
The 58-year-old owner/manager of Foote Dirtworks was working to put in a drain pipe late Saturday morning when dirt collapsed on him, burying him up to the middle of his chest, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office reported. He was unconscious and not breathing when bystanders and emergency workers dug him out, and he reportedly suffered cardiac arrest and was taken to St. Luke’s Nampa, where he was declared dead, the sheriff’s office reported.
Emergency responders estimated the trench was 8 feet deep.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration initially opened an investigation into the fatal incident. But Jose Carnevali, its deputy regional director of public affairs, said Wednesday the investigation ceased after the agency learned Foote was the company’s sole owner.
According to online state records, Foote Dirtworks holds a license for excavation, trenching and site preparation.
Foote grew up in Middleton and graduated from Middleton High School, according to his obituary in Tuesday’s Idaho Statesman. He is survived by his wife, Lisa, two children and a granddaughter. The couple’s son, Britt, worked in the family’s excavation business, according to the obituary.
His family will host a celebration of his life at 11 a.m. Saturday at the company shop, 304 N. Dewey Ave., Middleton.
Excavating and trenching are among the most hazardous construction operations, according to OSHA safety guidelines. The agency urges workers not to enter an unprotected trench and notes that a protective system is required for any trench 5 feet or deeper unless the excavation is entirely in stable rock.
Emergency responders say they did not see a trench box, a device used to brace the walls of deep trenches, at the scene of Saturday’s fatal accident. Information was not available about whether another type of protection may have been used.
Last May, two people died and a third was injured after a 9-foot-deep trench collapsed near the Boise corner of North Hill Road Parkway and Gary Lane. The owner of that company, Hard Rock Construction, said a foreman had removed a trench box shortly before the collapse.
OSHA investigators cited the Meridian-based company digging that sewer line project for failing to provide required cave-in protection and a ladder for its workers.
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447