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Man dies after falling into 16-foot trench in Stone Mountain

He was part of a construction crew digging a hole to repair a pipe in the subdivision.

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — A man has died after he fell into a 16-foot-deep trench on Winmire Lane off of Panola Road in Stone Mountain.  

DeKalb County Fire and Rescue was on scene throughout the afternoon working to recover the man's body. 

The victim was part of a three-person construction team working at a new residential subdivision called Winmire Estate, which is being developed by Bridgestone HomeBuilders. They were digging a hole to repair a pipe in the subdivision, said Capt. Dion Bentley with DeKalb County Fire Rescue. 

The victim was acting as spotter for another worker who was using a trackhoe to dig the hole. The man was standing at the edge of the trench when, just before Noon, the ground around him started to cave in, Bentley said. 

"About two feet of dirt on each side of the victim fell on top of him and covered him up," Bentley said. "Dirt is very heavy, per square foot it holds an extreme amount of weight."

The man's coworkers attempted to dig him out of the trench themselves and DeKalb fire crews had to pull them away. 

"We had to tell them it was too dangerous because we were unsure if the dirt would continue to collapse, and our rescuers would have to be rescued," Bentley said. 

There are fewer than five homes in the subdivision and the crew was likely shoring up the system, Bentley said. 

About 35 firefighters with specialized rescue training were on scene cautiously sucking up dirt from the trench. The team had to make sure the walls were shored up with the trench box that was brought in to make sure the hole did not get bigger. 

"These firefighters had recently been to a recovery class in downtown Atlanta ... they're trained to respond to collapsed buildings, water rescues. They're DeKalb's finest," Bentley said. "They are heavily-trained with hundreds of hours of training."

Officials from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) were on scene as well investigating the incident.

Bentley said that the construction crew was "like family" and the man's next of kin has been notified.