Donald Starling, 60, of Tyler, and Hollis Morris, 68, of Tyler, were killed when the wall fell on them Monday. Another man, Morris' son, Rodney Morris, 45, of Tyler, was transported to East Texas Medical Center in Jacksonville. He has broken bones and was believed to be in fair condition Monday. According to a news release, Starling is the owner of Five Star Cement Company.
The incident happened about 9 a.m. at 1058 County Road 3113 on Lake Jacksonville, south of County Road 3112.
Cherokee County Sheriff James Campbell said a construction crew had come in to dig on the exposed side of the retaining wall and were going to put steel up to reinforce it.
“It has no steel in it, and they were sitting in the shade resting for a minute and about a 30-foot (long) section of the wall fell on top of them. It killed them instantly,” he said. The wall section, estimated to be 40 or 50 years old, is about 12 to 15 feet tall and 1 foot thick of cement and rock.
Campbell said it took about three hours to recover the bodies, and most of the digging had to be done by shovel. Construction workers and personnel from the Earle's Chapel and Jacksonville fire departments were on hand to assist.
Cherokee County Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Judge Phillip Grimes pronounced Starling and Hollis Morris dead at the scene.
Campbell said he's seen ditches cave in but has not had a wall collapse like this before.
Campbell said the property owner is out of town.
“This is a very, very unfortunate accident,” Campbell said. “They came out here to put a day's work in and got killed.”
Fred Butler is the lead investigator for the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office. Campbell said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also was sending someone in to do its own investigation.