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911 Tapes Released In Fatal Trench Collapse

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SEVERN, Md. (WJZ) — Trench collapse. New 911 calls reveal the fearful moments when a man is trapped under seven feet of dirt at an Anne Arundel County construction site.

Kai Jackson explains how workers, neighbors and emergency crews tried in vain to save him.

The tapes frame the horrible moments when a construction worker was buried and killed.

Emergency crews converged on a house in Severn Monday. It was a rapid response after a construction worker was buried alive as he and others worked to build a backyard deck. Now the 911 calls of that frightful day have been released.

“What’s the problem there?” the 911 operator asked.

“A guy fell into a hole and dirt caved in on him,” the caller responded.

“He’s buried?” the operator asked.

“Yeah!” said the caller.

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department says it happened about 10 a.m. Monday in the 1000-block of Leyton Lane. Authorities say Manuel Armanda Zuniga-Esquina, 26, of Silver Spring was inside a trench, three feet by three feet wide and seven feet deep, when it collapsed around him.

“The one gentleman jumped down in the hole and started diggin’ further and as far as I know, everything just collapsed around him,” said one witness.

“Is any part of his body visible?” the 911 operator asked.

“Can you see any part of him?” the caller asked someone else, then told the operator, “You can see the top of his head.”

Fellow construction workers tried to dig Zuniga-Esquina out.

“We do have help on the way out there. We’re coming with specialty tools and specialty equipment for a trench collapse,” the operator told callers.

The Anne Arundel Fire Department continued in that effort when they arrived.

“If you have a collapse and it engulfs your upper body, you’re unable to breathe because of the pressure on your upper torso and your lungs,” said Anne Arundel County Fire Department Div. Chief Keith Swindle.

But sadly, the victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

“It’s upsetting,” said a witness. “You see somebody basically die in front of your eyes…it’s not good.”

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health continues to investigate the collapse.

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