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Elizabeth City Hall Elizabeth, NJ
Report: Both men dead in Boonton excavation accident
Updated On: Oct 16, 2018

October 1, 2014 - Boonton Township - Two landscapers trapped under 10 feet of soil in a drainage trench outside a home in a suburban Morris County neighborhood are dead, according to news reports.

UPDATE: Probe underway after accident

Wednesday, Boonton Township Police Chief Paul Fortunato said one of the landscape workers had died, and that his body had been recovered. He said activity at the scene had moved from a rescue operation to a recovery operation for the second man's remains.

News 12 New Jersey later reported that the second victim was dead, and that workers continued to try and retrieve his body around 10 p.m.

Four landscaping workers were excavating a ditch for a drainage pipe outside a home in the 400 block of Rockaway Valley Road at about 3:46 p.m., when the trench began to give away, Fortunato said.

One of the men became trapped in the trench and another man jumped in to try to save him, and was also trapped, Fortunato said.

"They've been down there for several hours," Fortunato said earlier in the evening. "There's still hope but we don't know what we'll find."

Officials from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene as first-responders continued to assist in the technically complicated recovery operation. Rescue workers in dozens of emergency vehicles from as far away as Madison, Morristown, Newark, Elizabeth and Hackensack were called in with specialized equipment to expand the hole and make it stable. The Morris County Office of Emergency Management was on the scene as well.

"Until it's safe, nobody is going in the hole," Fortunato said.

Jose Aguilar, an employee of Bednar Landscape Services of Boonton, identified the victims as Silbin Salaya and Oscar Portillo, and said they worked for the company.

Duli Montoya-Portillo, who identified himself as Oscar Portillo's brother, said he first heard about his brother's entrapment from a cousin. He said he was in a lot of pain over the accident, but offered no more comment.

A man who identified himself as a family friend of Portillo's, Joshua Navas, said his company was considering raising money to send the bodies back to their native Honduras.

This article appeared on authored by Justin Zaremba.

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