The man, named locally as Denis Cullinane and in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene after his body was retrieved from a deep trench several hours after the accident near Coachford, in Co Cork.
Gardaí and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) are both examining the circumstances surrounding the incident.
Mr Cullinane was working on land to the rear of Pat Kelleher Waste Tyres Services depot in Rooves More, just outside Coachford, when the accident happened around 10am.
It is understood that he was involved in the excavation of a deep drainage trench in a recently excavated and contoured field, and was in the bottom of the trench when the walls suddenly collapsed on top of him. The trench was approximately 3m-4m deep. Work colleagues tried frantically to free him but such was the volume of material which collapsed, they were unable to reach him in time.
Emergency services were alerted. Gardaí from Macroom and Crookstown, paramedics, rapid response doctors, and units of the Macroom and Ballincollig fire brigades rushed to the scene.
However, paramedics were stood down a short time after arrival when it became clear that there was no hope of retrieving Mr Cullinane alive. There were also concerns about the stability of the ground.
Firefighters remained at the scene as arrangements were made to bring in an excavator which was used to clear a safe access path to the accident site. After an extensive search and recovery operation, firefighters retrieved Mr Cullinane’s body later in the afternoon.
Distraught relatives, who had arrived at the scene, were present when he was formally pronounced dead by a local doctor.
The man’s remains were removed to Cork University Hospital for an autopsy. The scene was immediately sealed off for a full Garda forensic investigation. The HSA also sent inspectors to conduct a preliminary examination of the scene.
The HSA investigation will ultimately feed into the garda file which will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the coroner’s court in due course.
Given its remote location, it was some time even before locals became aware of the accident.
One shocked woman said she had seen the emergency vehicles in the area but thought they were on their way somewhere else.
She described it as a terrible tragedy for all involved: “It had been raining very heavily here for the last day or two. The road outside was totally flooded on Wednesday night. The ground would have been very wet.”