A 39-year-old construction worker was killed Thursday when his tractor-hoe overturned in three feet of mud, trapping him under the vehicle, authorities said.
David Paul Burns of Orange was grading near Running Springs and Garden View drives about 11:30 a.m. when he lost control of the machine, said Tabby Cato, spokeswoman for the Anaheim Fire Department.
Both Burns and the tractor-hoe tumbled about 20 feet down an embankment into a mud pond, a witness told authorities.
“The witness said he saw that one of the tracks was elevated when the victim swung the arm of the loader around to try and stabilize the apparatus, but he had gone too far and continued to fall,” said Robert Hirst, Anaheim fire operations chief.
Burns was trapped under the hoe, his head submerged in mud for about 45 minutes before rescuers could reach him, authorities said.
Other employees hooked cables to the hoe and used other tractor-type equipment to haul it out of the mud, then firefighters went beneath the vehicle to search for the victim.
“They couldn’t locate him and had to feel around in the mud, and they found his head,” Cato said. “Somehow his leg was still trapped underneath the seat of the hoe.”
Burns was unconscious when firefighters hoisted him up the embankment in a stretcher. Authorities later pronounced
him dead at the scene.
“At this time we don’t know if he died from traumatic injuries or suffocation, or both,” Cato said. “We won’t know until an autopsy is completed.”
The death appears to be accidental, but Cal-OSHA is investigating, Cato said.
The construction crew was building upscale homes in Anaheim Hills for Shea Homes, an Orange County developer.
Officials from the Walnut-based company said in a prepared statement Thursday that other employees made “immediate attempts” to save Burns’ life and regret that those efforts were unsuccessful.
Hirst said Burns owned and operated his own excavation equipment and had been working at the site for about a week.