Updated: Police Officially Release Name of Man Killed in Sewer, while Lawrence Township Mourns His Loss

Cesar Ortiz, a 50-year-old Lawrence Township resident, was the founder of Lawrence Landscapes.

Lawrence Township police this morning (Wednesday, Aug. 31) officially released the identity of the while trying to clear flood water from a property he owned in the 200 block of Bakers Basin Road.

Lawrenceville Patch late Tuesday night refrained from identifying the victim as 50-year-old Cesar Ortiz, following a request from township Police Chief Daniel Posluszny that Ortiz's name not be published at that time because not all of his family had yet been notified of his death.

Ortiz, a Lawrence Township resident, was the founder and owner of Lawrence Landscapes.

The business operated from the property at 209 Bakers Basin Rd. before relocating to its current location in the 1300 block of Lower Ferry Road in Ewing Township.

“I remember meeting him when he first opened up. When he came in for a variance, I was on the zoning board at the time. A wonderful man,” Lawrence Township Mayor Greg Puliti said of Ortiz Wednesday afternoon. “It was sickening to hear what happened. Our heartfelt sorrow from Lawrence Township goes out to his family because of this tragic accident.”  

Lawrence Township Manager Richard Krawczun, who remained at the rescue scene into Tuesday night, is a neighbor to the Ortiz family.

He described Ortiz as a loving husband and father who was “full of life, full of energy, an industrious worker and an individual that you are proud to have in your community.”

“First and foremost I want to, on behalf on everyone in Lawrence Township, express condolences to the Ortiz family. Certainly, all those who are acquainted with the Ortiz family understand the devastation of their loss,” Krawczun said.

“At the same time I want to express, on behalf of Lawrence Township, my appreciation and admiration for the emergency responders who came out for a rescue effort that, many have told me, was new territory for them. And they executed it with precision and professionalism that is second to none,” he said.

The following information about Ortiz can be found in the "About Us" section of Lawrence Landscapes' website:

Cesar’s mantra is: 'Good enough isn’t good enough.' It’s work ethic, design sense, and lifestyle all rolled into one. The result is consistent innovation, craftsmanship and service with each and every client.

Cesar started Lawrence Landscapes more than 27 years ago. In that time he has cultivated long-lasting relationships built on a reputation for dramatic spaces and high quality installations.

When asked why he does what he does, Cesar replied, 'We get to design something beautiful where nothing existed. We get to build it with the best talent you’ll find anywhere. And when we’re finished, we have a homeowner who has a renewed sense of pride in their home. We make life better.'


Shortly before noon today, Lawrence Township released a news release about the tragedy that contained the following details:

Accidental Death

209 Bakers Basin Rd., Lawrenceville, NJ

Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011, 2:15 Pm


Victim: Cesar R. Ortiz, 50, of Lawrencville


Incident Circumstances:

At the above date and time the Lawrence Township Police were called to 209 Bakers Basin Road, Shemin Nursery, on the report that a person was sucked into a sewer line and they could no longer see him.

Upon arrival of police patrol, the rear nursery portion of the property was covered in water. The depth of the water was between 2 to 3 feet deep.  Witnesses reported that the victim, who is the property owner, opened a manhole cover leading to a sewer system, in an effort to drain the water from the property. Once the manhole cover was opened the force of the water draining into the sewer opening sucked the victim into the sewer pipe.

Responding rescue personnel utilized sandbags and heavy equipment from the nursery and Lawrence Township Public Works to stop the massive flow of water into the sewer line from the nursery property. The Ewing Lawrence Sewerage Authority, who maintains the sewer system, shut down the flow of sewerage in the line. Cameras and rescue personnel from the Trenton Fire Department were lowered into the sewer line in an effort to locate the victim. At approximately 10 p.m. the victim was located at the end of the sewer line at the Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority plant on Whitehead Road.

No one else was injured during this incident.

The following personnel assisted in the rescue efforts:

  • Station 21 Slackwood Fire Co.
  • Station 22 Lawrence Road Fire Co.
  • Station 23 Lawrenceville Fire Co.
  • Station 20 Lawrence Township Emergency Management
  • Squad 129 Lawrence Township Emergency Medical Services
  • Lawrence Township Public Works
  • Trenton Fire Department
  • Hamilton Township Office of Emergency Management
  • Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority
  • Station 10 Hamilton Hazardous Materials and Sewer Department
  • Station 12 Mercerville Fire Co.
  • Station 15 DeCou Hose Fire Co.
  • Station 18 Colonial Fire Co.
  • Station 31 Prospect Heights Fire Co.
  • Station 32 Pennington Road Fire Co.
  • Station 40 Robbinsville Fire Co.
  • Station 43 West Windsor Fire Co.
  • Station 44 Princeton Junction Fire Co.
  • Station 45 West Windsor Emergency Services
  • Station 49 Plainsboro Fire Co.
  • Station 52 Hopewell Fire Co.
  • Station 60 Princeton Fire Department
  • Station 80 Mercer County Fire Academy
  • Station 81 Mercer County Fire Coordinators
  • Station 89 Mercer County Central Communications
  • Station 90 Mercer County Fire Marshals
  • Squad 142 East Windsor Rescue Squad #1
  • Mercer County Office of Emergency Management
  • Mercer County Department of Transportation.


The investigation is continuing.  This includes efforts to determination the cause of death. An autopsy is scheduled.

This incident is being investigated by Detective William Chester.

Peter F Lieggi August 31, 2011 at 07:27 PM
Cesar Ortiz was a classmate of mine for 8 years at ST Ann's Grammar School, and one year at Notre Dame. To know Cesar you had to interact with him, regardless of what jokes he would play or how kids act at that age he was always a friend. He liked to do film in grammar school of a collage of wacky incidents. If you could not laugh at yourself you did not know how to live. As I look at pictures of us with those we went to ST Ann's with the memories are deep. He is in heaven now, and my deepest sympathies to his wife and child, his brother Manuel, his sister Carmen , and the rest of his family. I did not know his parents, but they raised a fine son.
Mary August 31, 2011 at 10:23 PM
My husband and I met Cesar with one of our first landscaping jobs to our new home many, many years ago. We always liked Cesar very much and were impressed by his work ethic. He took such pride in his accomplishments and rightfully so. We offer our deepest, heartfelt condolences to his wife, his child and all his family. This is most devastating.
Patty Smith September 01, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Our family knew Caesar as one of the "good guys". We especially loved him as Christmas as he helped us pick out that special tree, hauled it to the car, and let our boys get so excited about the process. We miss him and our hearts go out to Maryanne and Marcos and the rest of his family.


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