Company boss goes to jail over Boston trench deaths

A company owner in the US will go to jail for manslaughter, and has been convicted of witness intimidation, after an investigation into the deaths of two employees in a trench collapse in Boston, Massachusetts in 2016.

Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks were installing water and sewer lines in a 12-foot-deep trench when it suddenly collapsed, damaging a fire hydrant that filled the pit with water in seconds, killing them.

An investigation found that Kevin Otto, the owner of Atlantic Drain Services, did not use cave-in prevention measures.

Otto also lied and issued false documents to investigators, including two sets of sheets signed by employees for excavation and trenching training, and personal safety equipment receipts.

Otto and Atlantic Drain Services had previously been warned by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2007 and 2012 for not using safety precautions.

Otto was sentenced to two years in jail for each count of manslaughter. The sentences will run concurrently.

He has also been sentenced to three years of probation for witness intimidation, the result of falsifying worker documents.

Atlantic Drain Services was fined $7,000, $5,000 for witness intimidation and $1,000 for both verdicts of manslaughter.

Rachael Rollins, Suffolk County’s district attorney, said: "The defendants had a responsibility to take measures ensuring the safety of their employees. Instead, they flouted those regulations time and again, without regard for the lives of the workers they recklessly and callously put at risk.

"Today’s verdicts will not ease the pain of the families of Mr. Higgins and Mr. Mattocks, but it sends a strong message that, in Suffolk County, those who willfully risk their employees’ lives will face criminal consequences. 

"The legacy of Mr. Higgins and Mr. Mattocks and their hard work to provide for their families will never be forgotten. I am in awe of the strength and resilience that survivors show every day. These two families are no different."

Image: ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

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