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City worker dies in Ala. trench collapse despite 8-hour rescue effort

The hole was very unstable, said Greene County Ambulance Service, which worked with crews from the Eutaw and Tuscaloosa fire departments


The body of 46-year-old Tony Rice was recovered early Wednesday following an hours-long rescue effort.

Photo/Carol Robinson/Tribune News Service

By Carol Robinson

EUTAW, Ala. — A city worker in west Alabama was killed overnight in a trench collapse.

The body of 46-year-old Tony Rice, of Eutaw, was recovered early Wednesday.

“Please pray for the Rice family and Eutaw,’’ according to a post on the city’s Facebook page. “Our hearts of full of sadness at this time as we deal with the loss of a hard worker and great friend.”

Eutaw City Hall was closed to the public Wednesday following Rice’s death.

The collapse happened Wednesday night. Utility workers were working on sewer lines and the dirt around them collapsed on them, according to the Greene County Ambulance Service.

The GCAS medics and Eutaw Fire and Rescue workers began trying to rescue Rice.

“Once he was found, it was determined that the hole the patient was in was very unstable and continuing to collapse,’’ the ambulance service posted on Facebook.

Tuscaloosa Fire and Rescue’s Tactical Response Team was dispatched to the scene. Crews spent about eight hours trying to rescue Rice.

“This type of rescue is not only very uncommon, but also very dangerous and requires very specific equipment and training that Tuscaloosa Fire has at their disposal,’’ the ambulance service wrote.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a neighboring county that has this type of equipment and personnel that we can call upon in our time of need.”

The Greene County Independent posted this statement from the city:

“The City of Eutaw is saddened at the loss of a hard worker and great friend. Tony Rice was a dedicated worker who has served the City of Eutaw for many years. Our public works employees are first responders who’s daily responsibilities are to maintain public infrastructure like roads and utilities. No one ever wants to have to deal with a situation like this, and no one ever thinks it will happen to them. Over the next several days there will be more questions than answers as we move through all of the official processes and also deal with heavy hearts and sadness at a loss of someone who’s close to you. We will forever miss Tony’s smiling face and energy. We would ask for your thoughts and prayers during this time as we are all grieving. Out of respect for the family, out of concern for the rest of the Team Eutaw family, and due to the nature of the circumstances we are not going to be able to provide additional comments at this time.”

Rice was a 1996 graduate of Eutaw High School.

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