'A good person': Elmwood Park man, 27, pulled from Buffalo Grove trench collapse dies

Nikodem Zaremba co-owned Rooter Solutions, which had vehicle in area, his fiancée said

Wednesday, December 14, 2022
'A good person': Man pulled from Buffalo Grove trench collapse dies
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Nikodem Zaremba died after falling into a hole in a Buffalo Grove front yard, which collapsed while he was doing work, officials said.

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. (WLS) -- The 27-year-old Elmwood Park man rescued from a north suburban trench collapse on Monday has died, officials said early Tuesday morning.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office said just before 3 a.m. Tuesday that it was investigating the death of Nikodem Zaremba.

At about 5:30 p.m. Monday, the Buffalo Grove Fire Department responded to a report of a person in a hole in the front yard of a home in the 1000-block of Aspen Drive, officials said. They were told the trapped person was buried, unconscious and not breathing.

At one point, a mutual aid call went out, asking for assistance from several area fire departments to help in the rescue.

There was a very large first responder presence in the residential area of Buffalo Grove.

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"There are literally 50 vehicles here of all differ sorts from all different suburbs," resident Tom Perris said.

Zaremba was pulled out of the trench at about 6:35 p.m. before being placed on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. He was transported to Northwest Community Hospital, where he died.

WATCH: Chopper 7HD captures dramatic moments after north suburban trench collapse

Chopper 7HD captured a dramatic moments after a trench collapse in Buffalo Grove.

ABC7 Chicago saw rescue workers working frantically to try to free Zaremba, digging in what appeared to be the front yard of a home.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said a company called Rooter Solutions, which had a vehicle at the home, was contracted to perform sewer repair work on the property.

The excavation they were working in was about 13-feet long, 9-feet wide and 8-feet deep, OSHA said.

"It appears there was no cave-in protection in the excavation while they were performing the work," an OSHA spokesman said in a statement.

The company, created in August, has no OSHA history.

OSHA has opened a formal investigation, which could take up to six months to complete, but said preliminarily it appears the trench had no cave-in protection.

The Village of Buffalo Grove said it had issued a sewer repair permit for the property on November 29, 2022 and that the contractor, Rooter Solutions, was to complete the work.

Zaremba's fiancée said he went by his nickname "Niko," and was a wonderful person.

Nicole Kozodaj said he was a plumber, who co-owned Rooter Solutions.

"Me personally, I'm still in the phase of shock, and I feel like I'm going to wake up, and he's going to be next to me, so I don't say that he's gone," she said.

Zaremba was working in the front yard of that home on Aspen Drive with his coworker and stepfather prior to the incident, she said.

Two of them managed to get out when the trench gave way, but Zaremba did not. They began digging with their bare hands to try to get him out.

"Niko is a good soul. He was the class clown. He always had a smile on his face, always made everyone laugh," Kozodaj said. "He was a good person, helped everyone. He always helped his family; he was the oldest son."

"He was just the kid that always brought the spark of joy, gave everybody the hope, the excitement, and just wanted to be everybody's friend and cheer them up no matter what," said friend Adrian Weglarz. "With him everything was awesome, and now it's just I feel like a part of me is gone."

Records show Zaremba started his business four months ago, and the company has no history with OSHA.

Rooter Solutions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.