Family remembers 20-year-old Marlon Diaz, who was killed in a trench collapse near Breckenridge last month
Diaz family says he was a calm, quiet young man who loved to play soccer
When the Diaz family gathered for a Zoom call on Wednesday, Dec. 8, their grief was palpable — even through a computer screen. Some members were calling in from their home in Choluteca, Honduras; one was tuning in from Maryland; and another was joining from Avon.
Though there were many miles between them, they all had one thing in common: their love for their late family member, 20-year-old Marlon Diaz.
Marlon was killed in a trench collapse Nov. 16 along Sallie Barber Road near Breckenridge. The incident partially buried another victim who was uninjured. At the time of the incident, A4S Construction, based out of Eagle County, was completing excavation work to install utilities for a new housing development on the site called Trails at Berlin Placer.
The family said management at A4S Construction initially had offered to pay for funeral costs and other expenses, but family members have since not heard from the company. Eager to lay Marlon to rest, the family scraped together $7,000, which was enough to pay for a small wake held Dec. 1. But more expenses are sure to come: Family members living in the U.S. hope to book flights as soon as his body is cleared for Honduras, so they can join in on one last celebration of life.
“At the beginning, the company said they would take care of it, but we haven’t heard from the company after all,” Ana Diaz, Marlon’s aunt, said through an interpreter. “So we got the funds for the wake from friends in the U.S. that pitched in, and we got loans from other friends. We still don’t know the amount we have to pay to bring the remains back home, but we hope we can bring him home.”
The family is just waiting for last-minute paperwork to be completed before Marlon’s body can officially be laid to rest. But the grief felt in his absence is sure to last long into the future.
The Diaz family is a close-knit bunch. On the call were Marlon’s parents, his grandparents, cousins and aunts. His cousin Melissa Diaz Escobar thinks of him more like a brother. And his grandparents, who helped raise him, think of him more like a son. Ana traveled with him when he moved to Summit County. And while he worked in Summit and Eagle counties, he lived with Cloris Diaz, another one of his aunts, in Avon.
All of them remember Marlon as a calm, quiet young man who loved to play soccer. He had ambitions to move to the United States not only to create a better life for himself but also to pay for better treatments for his mother, Diana, who suffers from symptoms similar to epilepsy. It was Marlon’s hope that he’d be able to pay for a successful treatment for her.
“He was my only son,” Diana said through an interpreter. “Due to my disease, I couldn’t have any more children. He left so I could be healed and have a healthy life.”
As Marlon’s would-be 21st birthday approaches Dec. 31, the family struggles to come to terms with his death.
“He was very young,” Ana said. “He was going to turn 21 at the end of December this year, and he still had a full life ahead of him. We really miss the chances that he would have found in life.”
Once arriving in Summit County, Cloris said Marlon worked odd jobs, like painting houses, until he landed a job with A4S Construction roughly six months ago. When he started, Cloris said she believed he hadn’t gotten the proper training after the first incident happened. Cloris said Marlon cut his leg with a saw and was taken to the hospital. Later on, after his death, Cloris said some of his fellow workers told her about another incident in which he was knocked unconscious. Had she known about the second incident, Cloris said she wouldn’t have let Marlon return to work for A4S Construction.
A4S Construction officials did not return a call seeking to confirm these incidents.
There are no formal investigations on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s online database about these other two incidents. Summit Daily currently has a pending records request for complaints filed against A4S Construction to see whether any of these incidents were reported.
As of now, the family hasn’t decided whether to file a lawsuit. Cloris said she plans to reach out to an attorney to figure out next steps, but for now, the family is rallying together and focused on bringing Marlon’s body home.
In the meantime, OSHA’s Denver office is taking the lead on the investigation, which will include taking a deeper look into a safety device that emergency responders say wasn’t in use at the time of the incident.
Todd Zentner, assistant regional administrator for enforcement for OSHA’s Region 8 based in Denver, said that by law, OSHA investigations have to be completed within six months. The investigation includes conducting employee interviews and compiling any evidence or statements taken by local law enforcement on the day of their emergency response. Toward the end of the investigation is when citations could be issued.
Zentner said OSHA typically hears about serious incidents through employers’ self-reporting. Amputations, fatalities and hospitalizations for work-related injuries are all cases where employers are required to self-report to OSHA. Zentner said there’s other ways OSHA can learn about incidents, such as complaints filed by employees or by individuals who believe a site to be unsafe.
Zentner and Juan Rodríguez, deputy regional director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs in Dallas, noted that OSHA has plenty of guidance and requirements regarding the risk of a trench collapse. They also reiterated that training must be given in a language a worker understands and noted that the Denver office has Spanish-speaking translators who can answer any questions. These translators do not provide training services.
As the Diaz family awaits more information about the events leading up to Marlon’s death, they will continue to plan his celebration of life and might ask for help with expenses down the line. For now, they’ll continue to find solace in remembering the man he was and lean on one another for support.
“He had a huge heart,” Cloris said. “He was well-spoken. He would never curse or speak badly about anyone. He had great feelings. We’d chat in the morning before we’d go to work. He was just a happy 20-year-old.”
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