Authorities provide new details in death of Eutaw city employee

Officials say Tony Rice was repairing a sewer line when trench collapsed
Published: May. 3, 2023 at 4:52 PM CDT
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EUTAW, Ala. (WBRC) - There are new developments in the death of a Eutaw city employee. Tony Rice died one week ago while repairing a sewer line in the Branch Heights neighborhood.

Town leaders say the investigation is well underway and is being handled by two agencies: the Eutaw Police Department and the Greene County Coroner’s office. OSHA is not involved because agency officials say this involved a death on city property and on a city job.

Tony Rice’s death in the trench shocked the town of 2,800 one week ago. The grief remains, but now there is a shift; a focus on what happened 15 feet below street level.

Town spokesman Corey Martin is confident the Eutaw Police Department and the Greene County Coroner’s Office will come to a conclusion.

“Typically, any time you have a certain depth per grade that you’re going underneath, you would do certain things. You have trenching, you have shoring, you’d have a trench box.. there are certain things you would do out of safety precaution. That’s one of the things they are looking at,” said Martin.

Two of Rice’s fellow employees managed to escape with minor to moderate injuries, but they are still working through the emotional trauma of it all. They, along with a few other city workers, are receiving grief counseling.

“They are doing extended grief counseling in making sure they’re talking to people. That’s the important thing right now. Making sure our employees are mentally and physically well about what happened,” Martin said.

Corey Martin expressed his appreciation for the outpouring of support, specifically the city of Demopolis 25 miles away.

“The city of Demopolis was nice enough to help with their public works crew,” said Martin.

Meantime, the sewer line has been repaired, the trench has been covered up, and Martin says the road in Branch Heights is passable.

Looking ahead, the final goodbye and the sad farewell for Tony Rice begins at 1 p.m. Saturday at what used to be the Carver School in Eutaw. A funeral will be followed by the burial.

Corey Martin says he’s not sure how long the investigation will, last but did say once it’s done the entire report will be given to workman’s comp and the city’s insurance company.

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