A worker laying sewer pipe at a Mitchellville construction site was killed when a trench collapsed yesterday afternoon, authorities said.

Prince George's County fire and rescue crews arrived at the large, muddy field off Church Road near Route 214 about 2 p.m., minutes after the accident, said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the fire department. They were soon joined by about 50 more rescue workers, including a contingent from Anne Arundel County.

But efforts to rescue the man were slowed by the need to stabilize the ground around the trench to prevent further collapse, authorities said. For nearly three hours, cranes were used to clear mounds of soil.

About 5 p.m., rescue workers, working on their hands and knees, were able to begin digging with buckets in the 125-foot-long, 25-foot-deep trench, Brady said. They found the body of Ronald Gordan, 22, of Hyattsville, about 6:30 p.m.

Co-workers said he was employed by Delmarva Site Development Inc., installing sewer lines in preparation for housing construction on the roughly 10-acre site. The company is based in Chester, Md.

According to the workers, Gordan was a native of Guatemala. He had a wife and children and had worked for the company for about seven months, co-workers said.

"He was a really great kid. Just a nice kid who was an eager worker," said Brad Dean, a project superintendent with the company, who came to the site after he heard about the accident.

The ground at the site was visibly moist, with large patches of mud and puddles throughout. Brady said the occupational safety and health branch of the state Department of Labor would investigate the collapse.

As of last night, it was unclear who owned the site. A sign said the development would be called "The Hamptons at Woodmore" and would have "luxury homes on 2 acre lots."

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.