THE death of a worker today at a trench near Delacombe has raised questions as to why there is no trench rescue equipment based in Ballarat.
It has been revealed that Ballarat has been without the potentially life-saving apparatus since 2014 after a joint decision by the CFA and the then-Liberal State Government to remove the equipment.
It is now based in Melbourne and Warrnambool. Both were brought up for today’s rescue operation.
Lucas Fire Station union representative Brenton Smith said he and others had raised concerns when it was moved away from Ballarat.
Mr Smith said it was unacceptable that equipment had to come from more than an hour away.
“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.”
A man in his 30s was killed and another suffered serious injuries when the trench collapsed about 11am this morning. A man in his 20s suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital in an induced coma.
Relatives of the victims had been notified, but the dead man had yet to be formally identified.
The Glenelg Highway was opened shortly before 6pm this evening.
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.”
The 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.