Canyon County

After trench collapse, Caldwell family confronts life without Dad

Bert Smith Jr. loved to spend time with his children, his family said, including daughter La’Teigha.
Bert Smith Jr. loved to spend time with his children, his family said, including daughter La’Teigha. Provided by Misty Smith

Bert Smith Jr.’s family was everything to him, said his wife, Misty.

And everyone knew it.

That’s been made more evident by the constant stream of loved ones visiting Misty since Bert’s death when a trench collapsed Tuesday in Boise near Hill Road, killing two men and injuring one. They’re bringing food and condolences, and sitting with Misty while she takes phone calls.

“He loved his family so much,” she said while tears streamed down her face. “There isn’t anything he wouldn’t have done for us or anyone.”

Bert’s mother, Michele Sanguinetti, nodded as Misty spoke.

“Just the other day he put in my father’s sprinkler system after he worked a 12-hour shift,” she said.

Smith, 36, and Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata, 26, both died in the incident. A third worker was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. His name and condition are unknown, but emergency workers said he was conscious and talking when he was rescued.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident, which happened as Hard Rock Construction of Meridian was overseeing what apparently was the digging of a path for a sewer line on Gary Lane near Hill Road.

There’s been no public statement about what caused the trench to collapse. Area OSHA Director Dave Kearns said trench cave-ins generally are caused by a lapse in safety measures, such as not having a trench box. Such precautions are required for any trench deeper than 5 feet. Officials have said the trench the two men died in was 9 feet deep.

A GoFundMe page was established Thursday to raise funds to help the Smith family.

‘HE TOOK PRIDE IN WHAT HE DID’

Misty and Bert Smith were married in July 2014, bringing their two families together. Bert had two sons: Joshua, 13, and Adam, 11. Misty had her 9-year-old daughter, La’Teigha.

“It didn’t take very long for him to become my whole world,” Misty said of Bert.

And another Smith is on the way. Misty is pregnant, expecting in November.

It was difficult to create a home for the new family, Misty admitted, but the couple did it. Bert took on big projects to make his family comfortable in Caldwell. They built a home together and Bert put in a garden and solid fence around the yard for their dog.

“He took pride in what he did,” Sanguinetti said. “Everything he did was the best to his ability.”

When he wasn’t working for a paycheck, he was working for his family, Misty said. And he had a fun side.

“He was a joker,” she said. “He was so happy.”

Bert brought home rambunctious joy, Misty said. It was recognizable even Thursday morning as his two boys played and laughed.

Sanguinetti’s wife, Jennifer Zimmermen, smiled at the boys’ play.

“That’s Bert,” she said, noting that his approach to life was to put family first. “No matter how tough life got, he always worked to keep his family together.”

For now, the family is doing some painful waiting. They’re waiting for Bert’s body to be released, waiting to plan the funeral and waiting to see where the investigation into his death leads.

Misty said she thinks this couldn’t have happened if the proper safety precautions were in place.

“I just need to make sure this doesn’t happen again to another family,” she said. If a measure such as a trench box wasn’t used along Hill Road, she said, “somebody should have said something.”

“It doesn’t need to happen at all,” she said.

“It doesn’t need to take a precious life,” said Sanguinetti.

Two people died, and a third was rescued alive, after a 9-foot-deep trench collapsed near the corner of Hill Road Parkway and Gary Lane in Boise on May 3, 2016. Here's the scene after news of the incident broke.

Erin Fenner: 208-377-6207, @erinfenner

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