City of Eastpointe worker killed in trench collapse worked for city for 13 years

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

An employee of the city of Eastpointe died Wednesday evening after a trench collapsed, authorities said.

Brian Theobald, who worked for the Department of Public Works, was tending to a water main break on Gratiot near Hayes and Lydia avenues when the trench collapsed at 6:20 p.m., police said.

The collapse trapped Theobald, 45, in the trench, City Manager Elke Doom said in a press release.

Brian Theobald, 45, worked for the City of Eastpointe for 13 years.

Emergency personnel extricated Theobald and took him by ambulance to a hospital, where he later died from his injuries, Doom said.

Deputy Fire Chief Nick Sage said Theobald was trapped about 10 minutes before firefighters could pull him out, according to an Associated Press report. 

The trench was estimated at about 10 feet deep. An investigator with Michigan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was sent to the site, according to the report.

Theobald was an employee of the city for 13 years. He is survived by his wife and two children, Doom said.

"I extend my deepest sympathies to the Theobald family and Brian’s Eastpointe family. Brian died serving the citizens of Eastpointe and will always be remembered," Doom said.

The incident is under investigation. Police declined to comment further Thursday. No one answered the phone Thursday at MIOSHA. Doom's office and the Department of Public Works also could not be reached Thursday.

"The death of an Eastpointe DPW worker tragically illustrates how dangerous such jobs are," Candice Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner, posted on Facebook Thursday. "Our prayers go out to his family, friends and co-workers."

Chris DeBacker's father, Ronald DeBacker, worked at the city’s Department of Public Works for 20 years, many of them alongside Theobald.

This is the site where a worker died after a trench collapsed and trapped him on the Gratiot near Hayes and Lydia avenues in Eastpointe Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.

“Brian was a kind man," said DeBacker, 36, from Eastpointe. "My father was forced to retire due to an illness in 2013 and Brian made sure to keep in contact. He treated my mother with kindness and was a genuine man. This is awful. My thoughts are with his wife and two boys."

Ronald DeBacker died from colon cancer shortly after retiring in 2013, he said.

"Brian came to their new condo (after Ronald DeBacker died) to do some landscaping work. If I remember correctly Brian had a landscaping business on the side," Chris DeBacker said. "My mother is very upset. She said he was a kind, helpful man."

A GoFundMe has been set up "on behalf of an amazing family who lost their much loved Father, Husband, Son, Brother and Uncle."

"We hope that everyone’s kindness and donations will help relieve the stress and financial worries this tragedy brings," said the fundraising page.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_