Worker dies at Deep Rock Tunnel Connector site in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS - A Citizens Energy contractor has died at a tunneling-connector site on the southwest side of the city.

Indianapolis police (IMPD) confirmed the worker, identified as 25-year-old William Isaac Simpson, died at the Deep Rock Tunnel Connector site, which begins on the 6600 block of South Tibbs Avenue and extends 7 miles through the ground. (See map below.)

The incident happened sometime early Friday morning. Dispatchers confirmed OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was on its way to the scene.

Officials said Simpson was working as a laborer for SKJV, a joint venture that has contractors working for Citizens. He was on an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift when he died.

A spokesman for Indiana OSHA said its investigation could take two to three months to wrap up.

Work has been halted at the site of the tunnel connector and all other workers have been removed from the tunnel. Officials said the incident happened more than 250 feet below ground near the intersection of West Street and Raymond Avenue.

Officials said eight to 10 employees were working on mining the tunnel in the area where Simpson died. Citizen's offered them access to grief counselors, a spokesman said, and all have been sent home for the day.

Citizens Energy spokeswoman Sarah Holsapple said they can't say at this point whether it was a worksite incident or a medical incident that led to the man's death. 

There are no details yet on how the incident happened, but officials said it occurred at the end of the 7-mile long tunnel. Workers are required to take a 50-minute train ride underground  to reach that section of the worksite.

The Deep Rock Tunnel Connector is planned to extend roughly 8 miles form the Southport Sewage Treatment Plant in southern Marion County to the 1700 block of West Street in downtown Indianapolis. Work should be completed in more than 10 years, in 2025.

The construction of the tunnel is part of Citizens' federally mandated plan to curb the overflow of raw sewage into rivers and streams. It designs into the future Indy Tunnel system, which will extend along Fall Creek, White River, Pogues Run, Pleasant Run and Bean Creek to make a collective underground storage and transport facility for sewage to the wastewater treatment plant.

Learn more about the project here.

Holsapple released this statement from Citizens Energy Friday morning:

Tragically, there has been a death of a worker here today at our Deep Rock Tunnel Connector site. We are withholding the identity of the worker for pending notification of his family. The circumstances of the worker's death are still under investigation so we cannot speculate about a cause. We expect to have more details later today. Our hearts go out to the worker's family. Thank you for your patience as we gather the details of this incident.

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