A Phoenix-based construction company has received two citations and fines of $105,000 after a Mesa worker died in May when he was buried alive at a Queen Creek construction site.
Marco Garcia, a 25-year-old construction worker, died May 17 after a wall of dirt crushed him inside a pipe at Rittenhouse and Ellsworth roads near downtown Queen Creek.
The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health handed down the citations and fines Nov. 9 to SJ Louis Construction of Arizona, the company working at the site.
The first violation, which carries a $70,000 fine, states that the construction company did not furnish a site “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees.”
It said employees were “exposed to the recognized hazard of being 'struck by’ or 'crushed by’ an unsupported corrugated steel pipe.”
The second violation, carrying a $35,000 fine, states that “each employee in an excavation was not protected from cave-ins by an adequate protective system.”
The construction company had already been cited for the second violation in March at a work site at Ocotillo and Ellsworth roads in Queen Creek.
Charles Keller, an attorney representing the company, said it is contesting the citations but added he could not comment further because he had not seen the files for the report.
The state agency would not comment on the violations.
On the day of the incident, rescue workers dug for four hours to rescue Garcia, who had sought refuge inside the corrugated metal pipe when dirt began pouring over it, authorities said.
The incident came a day after falling dirt crushed another pipe at the Rittenhouse and Ellsworth roads work site.
The mangled metal still sat on the property during the rescue attempt.
The site of the accident is part of a Queen Creek downtown revitalization project and will one day house a Super Wal-Mart and other businesses in a retail district called Cornerstone.
Garcia and another man, Arturo Cortez, had been working in the hole, placing three corrugated pipes alongside one another to be used for rainwater retention.
When the dirt started pouring into the hole, Cortez made it out of the pipe, but the pipe and dirt collapsed on his right leg, fracturing it.
Garcia ran in the other direction and was trapped and eventually crushed in the pipe, suffering multiple blunt force trauma under the weight of the pipe and dirt.
Rescue workers said that had he gone another 5 feet into the pipe he might have survived.
The inspection report’s conclusion stated that “this accident most likely would not have occurred” if the construction company had “properly supported the section of pipe” and “removed the 6-feet of dirt off of the top of the pipe.”