- Associated Press - Friday, June 13, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A construction worker died early Friday while assisting on a project to build a sewer tunnel 250 feet beneath Indianapolis, a utility company said.

Citizens Energy Group spokesman Dan Considine said an ambulance was called to the project site on the city’s southwest side about 3 a.m. Another company spokeswoman, Sarah Holsapple, said it wasn’t yet clear if the worker died in an accident or a medical event.

The man who died was William “Isaac” Simpson, 25, who had been a laborer on the site for a little more than a year, Holsapple said. He was employed by Shea-Kiewit JV, a contractor on the project.

Simpson was near the end of the tunnel, about 7 miles deep from its launch shaft, in a crew working to finish the excavation, Holsapple said.

“Our hearts go out to the worker’s family,” Holsapple said in a statement.

Investigators from the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration arrived on the scene Friday, and their investigation could last two to three months, Holsapple said. Work on the tunnel was halted, and IOSHA will determine when it will resume, she said.

Police also are investigating the death.

Indianapolis media outlets reported that about eight other workers were removed from the tunnel. Holsapple said there was no danger that the tunnel would collapse.

Considine said the company is building an eight-mile tunnel to store sewage until it can be treated, and to keep it from flowing into the White River during heavy rains. The tunnel is 19 feet in diameter and will be part of a 25-mile network of tunnels called the Deep Tunnel Connector. Work is expected to be completed by 2025.

The $1.6 billion, federally mandated project is designed to reduce water pollution. Under the city’s century-old combined sewer overflow system, 5 billion gallons of untreated sewage overflowed into the city’s water channels every year after heavy rainstorms.

Citizens Energy provides gas, water and sewer services for Indianapolis.

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