Landfill death due to asphyxiation
Autopsy findings released late Monday afternoon show 49-year-old William L. Pierce of DuBois died of "compressional asphyxiation due to environmental entrapment," according to Elk County Coroner Michelle Muccio.
Pierce's death has been ruled an accident.
Pierce, a 16.5-year employee at Advanced Disposal's Greentree Landfill in Kersey, was pronounced dead Friday, Feb. 10 at 1:25 p.m. after an exhaustive search of roughly 48 hours.
At the time of the incident, Muccio said the cause of death appeared to be blunt force trauma to the head, however she noted the official cause of death – now determined to be compressional asphyxiation – would not be announced until the autopsy was complete.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8 at approximately 2:10 p.m., a portion of the landfill collapsed down an incline burying multiple pieces of heavy machinery and endangering five employees. Four of the employees escaped the landslide uninjured, many of them also operating equipment at the time. One of them was rescued from a pit using ropes to hoist him out.
Unstable terrain and inclement weather hampered rescue efforts as crews worked to reach Pierce, who was operating a trash compactor at the time of the catastrophe.
Rescue crews of at least 50 people, most of which were company employees, utilized tracked excavators, bulldozers and other support vehicles including front end loaders in the search.
Search crews located the missing equipment Friday at 10 a.m. It was found positioned on its right side under 40 feet of shifted soil and refuse. Using hand tools, crews worked to unearth the operator's cab of the trash compactor and discovered Pierce was deceased inside.
Pierce was ultimately extricated from the machine at 1:20 p.m. and pronounced dead at the scene by Muccio five minutes later.