A Suffolk Superior Court judge today found Atlantic Drain Service of Roslindale and owner Kevin Otto guilty of two counts of manslaughter for the 2016 deaths of two of his workers in a trench at Dartmouth and Tremont streets in the South End, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports.
Otto had asked for a jury waived trial and argued that BWSC was to blame for the deaths because it failed to properly maintain a hydrant supply line while Robert Higgins and Kevin Mattocks worked 14 feet down in a trench. But prosecutors pointed to past OSHA violations levied against Otto and said he failed to take mandated steps for trench work, such as shoring up deep trenches before workers went down into them.
According to the DA's office:
The evidence proved that Otto and Atlantic Drain Service knowingly and willfully place the victims in extreme danger by failing to utilize cave-in protection, and that Otto lied and produced false documentation to investigators in the wake of the men’s deaths.
The victims were working in a trench at 12 Dartmouth St. in the South End, where Atlantic Drain Services had been hired to install water and sewer lines. The company was not utilizing cave-in prevention measures. Otto and Atlantic Drain Services were aware of the grave danger this created for workers; the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration had cited the company in 2007 and again in 2012 for failing to utilize the safety precautions. OSHA also required the company to provide comprehensive safety training to employees.
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on October 21, 2016, dirt began to slough off the sides of the trench, partially burying the men up to their waists. A fire hydrant on the side of the collapsing trench fell into the hole, filling it with water within seconds, drowning the trapped victims.
After finding the company and Otto guilty, Judge Mitchell Kaplan scheduled sentencing for Dec. 4.