Fatal Accident in Victoria Avenue 1954

In 1954, a jury returned a verdict of ‘Accidental Death’ on a man who was buried up to his neck in clay while digging a trench in Victoria Avenue, Langdon Hills.

Nine feet six inches deep and two feet six inches wide, the three quarter mile trench for sewerage pipes was just 15 yards from being completed when the accident happened. 

The mechanical digger came to an obstruction, a water pipe which ran about two feet from the top.  One man was working in the trench below the level of the pipe, shoveling earth into a bucket when the sides of the trench collapsed, trapping him.  Frantic attempts were made to release him but he was pronounced dead from asphyxiation, by Dr Goldacre.  One other worker was injured.

Addressing the jury, the Coroner said ‘there is at present no regulations applying to this kind of work’, so there is not much one can say about this at this time.

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  • My mum and dad also remember an accident like this near Salisbury Avenue where we lived but thought it was after 1954.  May be this is a different accident.

    By Judy Webb (18/01/2016)
  • Hi Judy.  This accident was definitely in Victoria Avenue 1954 as I have the newspaper article from the Basildon Standard.  I expect there was a lot of similar work going on in that area at that time, so perhaps there was more than one.  I hope not, as it was awful.  

    By Nina Humphrey(née Burton) (18/01/2016)
  • I remember this accident. I was at school when the story went the rounds that a workman had got buried in a trench in Victoria Avenue, which ran past the back of Langdon Hills School.

    Come home-time, almost all of us had reason to use the back gates to go home. Turning left, it was only a little way to the scene of the accident. The site had been filled there, but we were told by a workman that the man was still trapped under the mud, and that there was no shoring at that point. We were all a little awe struck at the thought of him being alive under the mud but of course, this was obviously not true as there was no emergency work or crews working there, and we were allowed to walk past, so the site was clear. However, whenever I did a cable joint in later life, this served as a reminder not to jump into a trench before it was properly shored!

    By Colin Clarke (18/01/2016)
  • Hi Nina,  I think you are right, it must have been a different accident.  I remember going out in ‘the ruts’ and seeing all the digging going on!  Oh Happy days.

    By Judy Webb (18/01/2016)
  • Scandalous that a man should be asked to work in a (presumably) unsupported trench at 9′-6” deep. Very narrow too at 2′-6”. Nowadays with the Building Regulations and Working in Confined Spaces procedures there would be a need for fully supported sides to the trench and adequate access ladders. Although people say we are Health and Safety mad these days, this awful tragedy proves that the construction industry has to be taken seriously as the dangerous occupation that it is.

    Editor’s Note:

    Even more scandalous is that the ground in the area was known to be treacherous and there had been previous earth falls, but on those occasions nobody was there.  Apparently there was some protection in the trench, but the worker had strayed beyond that point.

    By Richard Haines (17/01/2016)

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