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Worker dies deep in Indianapolis tunnel

– 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.

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

Simpson was near the end of the 7-mile-long tunnel in a crew working to finish the excavation, Holsapple said.

She said it wasn’t clear whether Simpson died in an accident or as a result of a medical event.

“Our hearts go out to the worker’s family,” she 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 8-mile tunnel in which to store sewage until it can be treated and to keep sewage from flowing into the White River during heavy rains. The tunnel 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 overflow into the city’s water channels every year after heavy rainstorms.

Fort Wayne is about to begin the design process for its own deep tunnel project, estimated at $150 million. The 5-mile tunnel is expected to be complete by 2024.

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

Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.