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Man Dies in Cave-In at Site of Former Brewery

June 08, 2005|Monte Morin | Times Staff Writer

A man digging for artifacts of the defunct Maier Brewing Co. in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday night died when his quest triggered the collapse of a dirt wall, trapping him beneath tons of earth, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The man, who has not been identified, was digging for old tin beer cans and brewing equipment with three family members with pickaxes and shovels when he was buried by boulders and tons of dirt at 7:43 p.m. A 65-year-old male relative from Whittier managed to dig himself out. The cave-in occurred near the intersection of East Commercial and Hewitt streets, the site of a planned extension of railroad tracks from Union Station. Bystanders reported the incident.

"This was actually a good-spirited urban archeology effort," said Brian Humphrey, a Fire Department spokesman. "They knew this former brewery site was going to be inaccessible eventually, so they had gone there several times digging for cans, bottles and brewery equipment."

Humphrey said the man who died was digging beneath a berm several feet high when it gave way. The group did not have permission from site owners to be digging there.

The other man suffered unspecified injuries and was taken to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, where he was listed in fair condition.

Firefighters found the trapped man pinned beneath several large boulders and tons of earth, with only his head exposed. Rescue workers dug frantically, Humphrey said, but were unable to extricate the man before he was pronounced dead at 8:22 p.m.

"The man, sadly, was beyond our help," he said.

Firefighters and members of the Los Angeles County coroner's office worked throughout the evening to remove the body.

Rescue workers were initially unaware of what the men were doing at the site. When the survivor told them they were digging for bottles, firefighters assumed they were homeless. Several hours later firefighters learned that they were enthusiasts of the Maier Brewing Co., most famous for its "Brew 102" beer.

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