Company charged for deaths of 2 workers, including RI man

BOSTON (WPRI) — Prosecutors announced criminal charges Wednesday against a Boston drain company and its owner, for a trench collapse last fall that killed a Rhode Island man and another worker.

Robert Higgins, 47, of Warren, and 53-year-old Kelvin Mattocks of Brockton died on October 21 when water filled the trench they were excavating on Dartmouth Street in Boston.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley announced a grand jury indictment Wednesday afternoon, charging Atlantic Drain Services, Inc. and owner Kevin Otto each with two counts of manslaughter. Conley said the indictment also charged both the company and Otto with misleading investigators and concealing records.

According to Conley, the walls of the trench on Dartmouth Street were not shored up, in violation of federal regulations. Conley claimed the defendants knew the requirement, and chose instead to run the risk.

“That isn’t an accident. That isn’t negligence,” Conley said. “That’s wanton and reckless conduct, and we believe it cost two men their lives.”

Conley said the unsecured walls in the 14-foot trench gave way, burying Higgins and Mattocks up to their waists in dirt, and causing a nearby fire hydrant to break from its connecting pipe. The broken pipe flooded the trench within seconds, and neither man was able to escape.

Conley said the grand jury also uncovered evidence that Otto and his company tried to cover up past misconduct. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration previously cited Atlantic Drain Service for violations in 2007 and 2012, and required safety training for its employees. Following the collapse, prosecutors and OSHA investigators subpoenaed documents from the company. According to Conley, the documents showing that the company had complied with the OSHA requirements had been forged.

Conley said the defendants would be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court at a later date.