Drain Company Owner Gets Two-Year Prison Sentence for Worker Deaths

The owner of Atlantic Drain Service in Boston is also barred from employing anyone in a job that involves excavation

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The owner of a Boston drain company was recently convicted of involuntary manslaughter for a 2016 job site trench collapse that killed two of his employees, and he will serve two years in prison.

Kevin Otto, 45, received his sentence last week. Following the two-year prison stint, he will be on probation for three years. He is also barred from employing anyone in a job that involves excavation. For now, Otto remains free. The judge allowed the defense’s request for a stay of the guilty verdict. The defense now has until the end of the month to file a motion to reconsider.

The incident that started it all occurred on Oct. 21, 2016. Two employees of Otto’s company, Atlantic Drain Service, were killed while working on a water and sewer project in a 14-foot-deep trench. The two men, Kelvin Mattocks, 53, and Robert Higgins, 47, were buried to their waists after the trench collapsed. Then a fire hydrant that had been supported by the collapsed dirt was suspended by the water supply line, causing the line to break and fill the trench in seconds. Co-workers tried to save the two men, but the deep and fast-flowing water hindered their attempts.

Prosecutors say the trench had no shoring despite an expandable metal trench box being on site and claim Otto was pushing the men to work faster because the project was behind schedule. At the time of the incident, Atlantic Drain Service was also facing OSHA fines from past cases. Since then, the Boston City Council passed an ordinance requiring companies to report whether they are in good standing with OSHA before receiving work permits. Otto also allegedly forged employees’ signatures to make it appear as if trench safety courses — required due to the OSHA violations — had been completed.

“When a worker is killed on the job, it is incredibly rare that an employer is held responsible, despite knowingly putting their workers’ lives at risk,” says Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, in a statement, according to a report by the Boston Herald. “This case was even more egregious in that Kevin Otto and Atlantic Drain had already been issued multiple OSHA violations, had been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and even attempted to deceive investigators with falsified safety and health records after the tragic event. We hope the Mattocks and Higgins families get some peace from justice served.”

Source: The Boston Herald


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