FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A construction equipment operator died Tuesday after the ground collapsed beneath him and his excavator machine tipped, sending him into a creek, state safety investigators confirmed Wednesday.
The body of James “J.W.” Ivey was found just before 2 p.m., Fayetteville Public Works Commission officials said.
Ivey, who had worked for Fayeteville PWC for 13 years, went into Stewart Creek on Offing Drive while clearing trees as part of an effort to repair a sewage pipe damaged by Hurricane Matthew, authorities said.
According to investigators with the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (OSH), the ground collapsed at the edge of the creek and sent the machine that Ivey was operating into the water.
Fayetteville police and emergency responders were on scene for hours. Divers took part in the search for Ivey, who was a water resources crew leader with Fayeteville PWC.
“J.W. was a long-time dedicated employee and this is a tremendous loss to the PWC family,” PWC CEO/General Manager David Trego said in an email. “This loss reminds us of the extremely dangerous conditions our employees face every day and why safety is our top concern. All of PWC has J.W.’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.”
This was the first fatality for PWC workers in nearly 50 years, officials said.
“It’s unbelievable, that’s the first time something like that has happened in our neighborhood,” said Joseph Rembert, who lives in neighborhood. “PWC does a lot of work here often, on lines and stuff but it’s the first thing something tragic has happened.”
Another neighbor, Roland Kleinman, recalled nearly meeting a similar accident several years ago.
“A couple of years ago, I actually dumped my riding lawnmower,” he said. “Got too close to the edge and it caved in and my lawnmower went in almost at that exact spot.”
He said the waterfront in that area has been unstable for years.