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March 20, 2023
2 Connecticut men arrested in fatal trench collapse

Two Connecticut men have been arrested following a fatal trench collapse last summer and face charges of first-degree manslaughter and first-degree reckless endangerment, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced March 17.

OSHA inspectors investigated the July 22, 2022, collapse of an 8-foot-deep trench in Vernon, Connecticut, that killed an employee of Botticello Inc., a Manchester, Connecticut, construction contractor. Special agents of the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General and detectives with the town of Vernon’s police department also investigated the trench collapse.

On March 3, the Vernon police department arrested Dennis Botticello, owner of Botticello Inc., and Glen Locke, a Somers, Connecticut, equipment operator.

OSHA determined in January that Botticello Inc. failed to provide legally required safeguards and ensure they were in place to prevent a trench collapse. On January 19, OSHA cited Botticello Inc. with 4 serious trenching violations, proposing penalties totaling $375,021.
According to the agency, Botticello Inc. failed to:

  • Provide the trench with a protective system to prevent it from collapsing and caving in on workers.
  • Have a competent person conduct inspections before and during the work to identify and correct any hazardous conditions before employees entered the trench.
  • Ensure that the 135-foot-long trench contained sufficient means of egress to allow employees to exit safely.

“Botticello Inc. knew of the dangers of working in an unprotected trench and the need to inspect the trench and ensure required effective cave-in protection was in place before any employee entered the trench,” Dale Varney, OSHA’s Hartford, Connecticut, area director, said in January.

According to OSHA, the company has since contested the agency’s findings with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“Dennis Botticello and Glen Locke now face first-degree manslaughter and first-degree reckless endangerment charges for failing to provide legally required safeguards that could have prevented a deadly cave-in,” Galen Blanton, OSHA’s Boston regional administrator, said in an agency statement following Botticello’s and Locke’s arrests. “These arrests are the result of collaborative investigations by local and federal law enforcement groups that show OSHA will use all available enforcement tools at its disposal to ensure workers are afforded the protections provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

OSHA has an ongoing trenching and excavation National Emphasis Program (NEP)— the October 1, 2018, NEP replaced a 1985 trenching and excavation special emphasis program—and last year, the agency announced plans for 1,000 trenching and excavation inspections in response to an uptick in fatalities in 2022.

First-degree manslaughter is a class B felony in Connecticut punishable by a prison term of up to 20 years; a fine of up to $15,000; or both. First-degree reckless endangerment is a class A misdemeanor, which carries a 1-year prison sentence.

Criminal charges in a worker’s fatality may be rare but are not unheard of. In 2019, a Portland, Maine, grand jury indicted a roofer for workplace manslaughter following a worker’s fatal fall. The roofer also was cited by OSHA for 17 egregious willful, repeat, and serious workplace safety violations.

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