A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in the death of a 20-year-old construction worker who was killed earlier this year while working at The Vue Apartments in Fayetteville.
The lawsuit, filed by Bailey and Oliver Law Firm in Rogers, seeks damages from Business Construction Services LLC, of Houston, Texas, for the family of Brannon Rhine, whose fiancée gave birth to the couple’s child shortly after his death.
Sach Oliver, an attorney in the case, told 5NEWS Rhine's family and child need to be financially taken care of. The lawsuit alleges that the trench Rhine died in "did not have adequate protection to prevent a collapse and had not been inspected by the defendants," according to a statement by the law firm.
Parkcrest Builders LLC is also listed as a defendant in the case.
"Here several rules all laid out in the OSHA report weren't followed, which caused the hole to collapse on a twenty-year-old man," Oliver said. "Brannon Rhine should not have died."
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a $7,600 fine in July to the company building the Fayetteville apartment complex.
Rhine died May 5 when equipment struck a sewer line, and a hole collapsed around him.
In the citation, OSHA states employees in the excavation were not protected from cave-ins while working in the 6-foot trench.
Oliver said the lawsuit does not seek a specific dollar amount, and it may be up to a jury to decide how much money, if any, to award Rhine's family.
Rhine’s fiancée says that’s not enough, but she’s glad that OSHA is taking action.
“He didn’t receive any training as a matter of fact and to have him in that hole unsupervised without any shoring or anything like that is ridiculous,” Meagon Capehart said.
The trenches are supposed to have stairways, ramps or ladders to allow employees to get in or out. On the day of that deadly accident, OSHA says employees were exposed to ‘slip and fall hazards egressing in and out of a trench greater than five feet deep.’ The excavation did not have safe means of getting in or out of it, according to OSHA.
They also claim that the excavation had not been inspected prior to Rhine’s death.
“I don’t care about money or anything because what I want I can’t have back and that’s my child’s father you know,” Meagon Capehart said. “I’m glad they are doing something about it. I just wish they would do more.”
Capehart was pregnant at the time of Rhine’s death. Their baby girl Isabelle was born on June 15, a month after Rhine died.
“She makes me feel better because I have a piece of him here,” Capehart said.
According to the company, they paid for Rhine’s funeral. His family says they will soon pick out a headstone for him at a Fayetteville Cemetery. Capehart says she’s trying to move on with the support of her family.
“It’s really rough but, you know, I’m trying just to take it day by day.”
Business Construction Services, LCC, declined to comment about the OSHA citations this summer.
Rhine's was the first of two deaths at the site within a month of each other. In June, 44-year-old Jess Wilson of Joplin was installing siding on a boom lift when police say he struck his head on a high voltage power line, which killed him.
Officials say three other workers were hospitalized in the incident.
“I think it`s a 160,000 volts, each line is 80,000 and it will jump. What I`ve been told is the safe working distance around that line is 30 feet," said Harley Hunt, Fayetteville Fire Marshal.
“We still don`t know why he was boomed up as high as he was as far as away from the building as he was we`ve had 8 to 10 man lifts in this area for three weeks now with no issues,” added Wilson.
The site was shut down in April for some fire code violations that were not met in regards to fire access and the require water that’s supposed to be on site, according to Hunt.
“It was shut down back in April for some fire code requirements that weren`t met in regards to fire access and the required water that`s supposed to be on site,” said Hunt.