Sewer worker, 25, dies after being trapped by rising water - FOX 32 News Chicago

OSHA investigating death of sewer worker swept away in storm

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Federal investigators are looking into the death of a 25-year-old man killed after he was trapped in a sewer in the Avondale neighborhood Wednesday night as storms lashed the area.

Gustavo Briceno, 25, who worked for Kenny Construction, was re-lining a sewer near Elston and Rockwell when he was swept away by rising water as torrential rain flooded the area.

"There was a guy on all fours on his hands and knees looking inside a manhole and he caught my eye," says witness Anthony Gaston. "Like I said, it was pouring raining."

Fire personnel spent nearly three hours looking for Briceno, even using a remote-control camera to search for him. They found his body, clad in a wetsuit, about a block away in the sewer near Barry and Rockwell, Fire Media Affairs director Larry Langford said.

Briceno, who lived in west suburban Glendale Heights, was pronounced dead at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center just after 11 p.m., according to the medical examiner's office. A co-worker on scene with Briceno survived.

An autopsy Thursday found Briceno died of asphyxia and drowning and his death was ruled an accident, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

"We do have investigators on the scene," said Scott Allen, a spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "We have opened an investigation."

Allen said the investigation is standard procedure in an accident involving a fatality.

A man ran up to the scene and said: "That's my son!"

He was restrained by police and later comforted by construction workers.

Andrea Briceno was barely able to speak about her brother Gustavo.

"He was a very hard working man, a very good person, a good father, a good husband," Andrea said about her brother, through tears.

Briceno's employer Kenny Construction released a statement saying part, "The cause of the incident is not known at this time. Kenny Construction places the highest value on safety. We are working cooperatively with authorities on the investigation."

"I know for the past ten years they have been inspected several times and they've had some minor violations but nothing significant," Scott Allen says. "In the mid '90's they did have a couple different accidents and fatalities as a matter of fact but in the past ten years they've had a very good OSHA safety record."

A lone bouquet of white carnations mark where Briceno's body was discovered. His family and federal investigators still have many unanswered questions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it could be at least six months before their investigation is complete. Briceno leaves behind a daughter and son, ages 3 and 4.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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