Construction worker killed in Delphi accident

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A construction worker was killed Friday afternoon at the Hoosier Heartland construction site.

It happened around 1:15 pm as crews worked on the new State Road 25 - the Hoosier Heartland Highway - at Carroll County Road 300 North. Investigators spent the afternoon in a deep pit, photographing evidence and looking for what brought down a wall of dirt onto 30-year-old Arthur Kerns, killing him.

"Until we found the body, we did not know he was even in the hole for 100 percent. We were still hoping he was somewhere else," said first responder Pat Clawson.

The workers were on lunch break when they saw and heard the 40-foot high wall of dirt collapse from the side of an old railroad bed. They knew Kerns was out getting paint to mark something in the construction zone, but they couldn't find him.

"They spent about 20 minutes trying to figure out, calling his phone. His cell phone was ringing but no one was answering," said Clawson. "Nobody saw that he was in the hole for sure."

Working frantically near the base of a new concrete bridge pier crews used metal detectors, thermal imaging equipment, and they listened for sounds. What they didn't know is that Kerns was buried 12 feet deep in the collapsed dirt.

"It was a huge scene to try to find somebody when you don't even know where they are in the first place," Clawson said.

Workers used an excavator to ultimately find Kerns.

A physically and emotionally exhausting rescue effort. Helping them was the victim's father.

Matt Deitchley with INDOT says his agency will help in the investigation.

"Do everything we can," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the deceased worker."

Kerns was employed by TJ Lanbrecht Construction. The Hoosier Heartland Highway will join Lafayette with Fort Wayne and will open next fall. It is unclear how Friday's accident and the investigation will affect the construction schedule.

The big question for investigators will be to find out if enough was done to stabilize the dirt wall before it collapsed.

The Carroll County Coroner's office, Carroll County Sheriff's Department and Indiana State police are also part of the investigation.