December 2019 Vol. 74 No. 12


Contractor Guilty of Manslaughter in Boston Trench Collapse

A contractor who prosecutors said pushed his crews to work faster on a behind-schedule project has been convicted of manslaughter in the deaths of two workers in a 2016 Boston-area trench collapse.

A Suffolk County Superior Court judge convicted Atlantic Drain Service owner Kevin Otto of two counts of manslaughter in the jury-waived trial.

Workers Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins were working in the trench in Boston’s South End in October 2016 when it collapsed and broke a fire hydrant supply line that flooded the 14-foot deep trench with water.

Defense attorneys argued that the city of Boston failed to properly maintain a fire hydrant. Prosecutors, however, said Otto had a history
of safety violations and should have installed trench boxes at the site.

District Attorney Rachael Rollins said in a statement the defendants had a responsibility to take measures that ensured 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,” she said.

According to a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Otto was overseeing the work when the trench collapsed and took no precautions to protect his employees.

“The deaths of these two men could have and should have been prevented,” Galen Blanton, the New England regional administrator for OSHA, said. “Their employer, which previously had been cited by OSHA for the same hazardous conditions, knew what safeguards were needed to protect its employees but chose to ignore that responsibility.”

“Getting this conviction and the sort of signal that it sends to other contractors, other people who work in city of Boston and elsewhere, that if this is how you conduct your business, this is what’s going to happen,” prosecutor Lynn Feigenbaum said.

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