UPDATE: Death on the Job: Idahoans Killed at Work 

'Our nation is built on the dignity of its workers. We all must be involved in that cause'

David Kearns, area director of OSHA’s Boise office, at the May 1 Workers Memorial Day .

George Prentice

David Kearns, area director of OSHA’s Boise office, at the May 1 Workers Memorial Day .

UPDATE: May 4, 2016

The Ada County Coroner confirmed Wednesday that the two men crushed to death in a construction accident in northwest Boise were Canyon County residents. Their official cause of death was listed as mechanical asphyxia due to compression.

The victims were identified as Bert Smith Jr., 36, of Caldwell, and Ernesto Saucedo-Zapata, 26, of Nampa.

The two were buried under massive amounts of dirt and sand when the trench they were working in collapsed. Officials said the men were in a nine-foot-deep trench near the corner of North Hill Road Parkway and Gary Lane. A third worker at the site was rescued from the collapse and rushed to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. His identity has not yet been released.

UPDATE: May 4, 2016

Investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor have the grim task of probing exactly what went wrong when a trench at a Boise construction site collapsed in the late afternoon hours of May 3, killing two workers and injuring a third.

Emergency responders rushed to the scene shortly after the collapse, at approximately 5:30 p.m. Witnesses said the workers were about nine-feet deep in the trench when the walls collapsed. About 30 minutes later, one of the workers was pulled from the trench and rushed to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. About 90 minutes later, officials said the other two workers were dead at the scene.

No word yet on the identities of the three workers.


Some Idahoans are literally worked to death, something the survivors of the 13 Gem State workers killed on the job during the past year know all too well. Those survivors joined with Idaho labor and faith leaders on a spring morning May 1 to honor those who died as part of Workers Memorial Day. The abundant sunshine lit Boise's Fallen Firefighter Memorial that Saturday morning, a stark contrast to the grim and often lonely deaths of those being remembered.

One by one, labor leaders read 10 names:

• David Moreno, 36, killed June 1, 2015, at a Jefferson County Idaho dairy when a feed trailer turned over on top of his ATV.

• Ambrose Smartlowit, 18, died June 8, 2015, when he succumbed to heat stress and dehydration on his first day on the job, picking weeds at a Nez Perce County ranch.

• Terry Sonner, 33, died of a heart attack June 10, 2015 while on a training run in Elmore County. He left behind a wife and five children.

• Douglas Cook, 33, killed June 11, 2015, at a Shoshone County logging camp when he was struck by cable yarding. He left behind a fiance and son.

• Junior Romero, 35, killed July 9, 2015, at a Cassia County dairy when he was pinned against the wall of a storage container when stacked construction materials fell. He left behind a fiance.

• Seth Glenn, 22, was killed July 25, 2015, at a Caribou County exploration site when he was crushed by a drill rig.

• Jesus Guadarama, 52, died July 27, 2015, at an Eagle farm when his ATV rolled over.

• Bill Schmadeka, 55, was killed August 28, 2015, at a Shoshone County logging camp when he was crushed by a cable yarder.

• Francisca Gomez, 63, was killed January 20, 2016, at a Canyon County seed plant when her hair was pulled into a conveyor shaft. She left behind a husband and eight children.

• Ruperto Carrera, 38, was killed February 16, 2016, when he drowned in a manure pit at a Minidoka County dairy. He left behind a wife and large family.

Three more names were added to the memorial list, including two members of the Idaho military who died stateside: Navy Ensign Gage Theard, 24, of Coeur d'Alene, and Navy Corpsman William Lambert, 24, of Hayden; and Coeur d'Alene Police Sergeant Greg Morris, 43, who was shot and killed May 5, 2015.

"Today we remember all of them," said Leland Heinbach, president of the Idaho Chapter of the AFL-CIO. "These people did not have to die."

The AFL-CIO's annual report, "The Toll of Neglect," indicates 150 United States workers die each day from hazardous working conditions.

"The biggest thing in common with all of these deaths? They could have been prevented," said David Kearns, director of the Boise office of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who spends his days investigating many of the incidents.

Of the 10 Idaho deaths that OSHA investigated over the past 12 months, Kearns said five of the victims were particularly vulnerable because English was not their first language. National OSHA records indicate that Latino workers are at greater risk, with their job fatality rate being 9 percent higher than the overall U.S. job fatality rate.

Heinbach, who spends his days fighting for workers' rights as part of his role with the Boise Central Trades and Labor Council, said even thought union membership may not be high, it's still ultimately important.

"Our nation is built on the dignity of its workers," he said. "We all must be involved in that cause."

Pin It


Comments are closed.

© 2019 Boise Weekly

Website powered by Foundation