By Audra Streetman

JOHNSTOWN, Colo. (CBS4) – The construction worker killed in a trench collapse on Friday has been identified as Luis M. Cortes-Correa, 50, of Thornton. The autopsy results released Monday list his manner of death as an accident caused by drowning.

Officials say Cortes-Correa was helping install sewage lines for a new housing development when the 25-foot-deep hole he was working in collapsed and trapped him. Efforts by coworkers and first responders to free Cortes-Correa fell short due to the unstable dirt and rising water.

(credit: Loveland Fire)

Loveland Fire Rescue Authority Battalion Chief Tim Smith said trench walls, which are large metal barriers which help prevent such tragedies, were not being used at the time of the collapse. Smith said multiple agencies, and more than 65 firefighters, responded to the scene in an effort to try and save the man.

“Very early on we knew it was what we call a trench rescue,” Smith told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “There were three of his coworkers that were already in the hole trying to help him out.”

(credit: Loveland Fire)

Though it is impossible to know if they would have saved a life, Smith said the use of a common construction site trench wall would have increased the odds that the worker would have survived the collapse.

“(A trench wall) wasn’t in place, so we didn’t have any safety devices on scene,” Smith said. “They don’t prevent everything. But, they slow down what could be a catastrophe.”

The death, which happened in the developing Thompson River Ranch neighborhood near Interstate 25 and U.S. 34, marks the second fatal trench collapse in that region of Northern Colorado in the past three years. In 2018 two men were killed in the neighboring town of Windsor when a trench collapsed during a housing development project.

MORE NEWS: Worker Installing Sewage Line Killed After Trench Collapses, Trapping Man in Rising Water

Trench walls were not  used in that collapse either.

Audra Streetman