Young Ballarat labourer Jack Brownlee is being remembered by friends and family as a compassionate and loyal mate after he tragically became the second victim of a freak trench accident in Delacombe on Wednesday.
Staff at the Royal Melbourne Hospital were unable to keep the 21-year-old alive after he was airlifted from the work site just off the Glenelg Highway about 1.45pm.
Workmates and first responders spent hours at the Winterfield site trying to rescue the worker after he was buried up to his neck after the 3.2-metre trench collapsed just after 11am.
Tributes from friends, family and the wider community flooded in for the young man who was affectionately known as “everyone’s best mate”.
On behalf of Dave, Janine, Mitch family and friends we have the unfortunate task of announcing our son, brother and best mate Jackie Boy has passed away, we would like to thank the efforts of the amazing team at the Royal Melbourne Hospital for their care, compassion and efforts over the past 24 hours. We the family know that what could be done was done to get our boy back up and running. This is a very trying time for all family and friends and would like all to respect our privacy at the sad time. Rest In Peace Jacky Boy Brownlee, king of the jungle, bollard, snake a moit, JUNK YARD DOG, chopper, VB SWALLOWING ANIMAL, you will never ever be forgotten mate. #everyonesbestmateFamily spokesperson Kelly Dubberley
Friends for more than a decade, Pat Devereux described his mate as an “empathetic and loyal” bloke who always put others first.
“He was the funniest bloke and nicest person and always the life of the party,” Mr Devereux said. “His friends and family always came first.
“I don’t think anyone didn’t like him, he was probably the most popular person I knew.”
A 34-year-old Broomfield man was killed instantly in the incident. His name is yet to be released.
Jack had been conscious throughout the ordeal, before being placed into an induced coma and airlifted to Melbourne.
He underwent a series of surgeries Wednesday night and further surgery Thursday morning. The family released a statement confirming the death shortly after 12.30pm.
Brownlee family spokesperson Kelly Dubberley thanked the “amazing team” at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, saying in a statement: “the family know that what could be done was done to get our boy back up and running”.
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WorkSafe has also released a statement:
“A man in his 30s has died and a second worker in his 20s has been seriously injured after a trench collapsed at a subdivision site at Delacombe, near Ballarat, yesterday.
It is believed the men were in a sewer trench which was approximately 3.2 metres deep when the incident occurred about 11am.
The injured worker was airlifted to Melbourne.
WorkSafe is investigating the incident.
The fatality brings the number of confirmed workplace deaths to 6 for 2018, the same as this time last year.”
BACKGROUND: A man in his 30s and a man in his 20s have both died after a trench collapse on a worksite in Delacombe on Wednesday.
Late yesterday, the dead man’s body was still being recovered after he was completely buried in the collapse which happened about 11am.
Relatives of the victims had been notified, but the dead man had yet to be formally identified.
The injured man was buried up to his waist and remained conscious during the delicate rescue operation, before he was placed in an induced coma and airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital with serious injuries.
Senior Sergeant David Hermit said a joint investigation between police and WorkSafe would determine the cause of the fatal collapse.
“We don’t know how it happened, there was nobody present at the time,” he said. “The two workers were in the trench and were discovered by other workers arriving on the scene.
“First of all the rescuers were using their hands, then hand tools, before the trench specialists arrived. The men were a long way down, probably five or six metres.”
Travis Bramble, a pipe layer for BMD who was working on the other side of the road said he was informed soon after the incident.
"When I first found out (I felt) pretty sick actually; it's the whole ‘look after your mates’ (message),” he said.
“But in regards to the fact it could have been one of our boys. It's a good wake up call and I'll be bringing it up at our next meeting that's for sure.”
Yesteday’s incident occurred at the Winterfield Estate on the Glenelg Highway. Representatives of Winterfield declined to comment.
Pipecon vehicles and machinery were present on the site. The company also declined to comment when contacted by The Courier.
Ballarat has been without trench rescue equipment since 2014.
Lucas Fire Station union representative Brenton Smith said he and others raised concerns when it was moved away from Ballarat.
Mr Smith said it was unacceptable that equipment had to come from Melbourne and Warrnambool.
“It is an absolutely tragic accident and we want to express our condolences to those affected,” Mr Smith said.
“We raised this with the CFA several years ago that we had no training and no equipment and it was decided by the then head of the CFA and the Liberal Government at the time to move it away from Ballarat and they need to take responsibility for that.
“Unfortunately, trenches do sometimes collapse, but in a city such as Ballarat which is growing at such a rate it’s important we have access here. It may not have made a difference in this case, but the victim was never given a chance.”
When quizzed by The Courier as to why Ballarat did not have a trench rescue facility, the CFA responded in a statement.
“In light of the fact that there has been a fatality and the incident is subject to investigation by a number of agencies, it would be inappropriate and premature to enter into any speculative commentary at this point.”