The bodies of a construction-company owner and a worker killed in a Shoreline trench collapse Monday were recovered early Wednesday.
The owner, David Ameh, 66, and Demetrius Sellers, 32, a worker, died from suffocation during the collapse, which occurred as they tried to replace a damaged sewer connection, the King County Medical Examiner’s Office announced.
The men died July 4 while repairing a side sewer behind a homeowner’s backyard. Firefighters dug overnight with hand tools and a vacuum truck in the hazardous slope.
About a half-dozen family members kept vigil overnight, and watched portions of the operation from a neighbor’s property, said Michelle Pidduck, spokesperson for the Shoreline Fire Department. Neighboring departments worked with Shoreline Fire through the rain, and avoided having to wait another day or longer to retrieve the bodies.
“We were thrilled that we were actually able to make it happen, for the sake of the families. They were incredibly thankful,” Pidduck said.
After the second body was retrieved at around 4:10 a.m., two medic vehicles and staff from the Medical Examiner’s Office moved from the house, in the 600 block of Northwest 163rd Street, to an open lot near Shoreline Community College, where relatives viewed the bodies, Pidduck said.
The side-sewer repairs were permitted last week, and taking place on a hillside next to wooded ravines south of Shoreview Park and Boeing Creek.
During the overnight recovery, firefighters from Shoreline and neighboring departments, public works staff and a private crane operator removed an excavator stuck in the trench, dealing with slight soil shifts around their equipment. The recovery team reached the site with protection from metal boxes that were lowered by crane, to form a shield against further trench collapses.
The Washington Department of Labor and Industries will investigate the collapse, which killed workers from Peacefield Construction based south of Seattle. The firm was cited in 2014 and 2019 for safety violations while the owner worked in a trench.
Nationwide, about 20 workers per year die in trench collapses, federal agencies say. Fatal trench failures occurred locally in West Seattle in 2016 and at a White Center job site in 2007.