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Owner Of Company Involved In Fatal Trench Collapse Pleads Not Guilty To Manslaughter

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — A Boston company and its owner were arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court Thursday in connection with a trench collapse that killed two workers last October.

Atlantic Drain Services Inc. owner Kevin Otto, 42 of Blackstone, pleaded not guilty to two charges of manslaughter and witness intimidation. He was released on personal recognizance after his attorney told the judge he had no money.

kevin otto trench collapse deaths south end manslaughter
Kevin Otto, owner of Atlantic Drain Services, was arraigned on manslaughter and witness intimidation charges Thursday. (WBZ-TV)

Authorities say 47-year-old Robert Higgins and 53-year-old Kelvin Mattocks died after a fire hydrant collapsed and flooded the 14-foot deep hole where they were working last October.

"He gets to go home to his two children," Elissa Cadillick of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health said of Otto. "Robert and Kelvin do not get to go home to theirs."

south end worker dies in trench
The company was digging a trench on Dartmouth Street in the South End on Oct. 21, 2016 when it flooded and the walls collapsed. (WBZ-TV)

Prosecutors said Otto was overseeing operations as the workers became trapped.

"Mr. Otto was fully aware of the extreme danger that his workers were exposed to in a trench deeper than 5 feet without cave-in protection," said prosecutor Lynn Feigenbaum in court Thursday.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley says the company failed to shore up the trench walls as required by federal regulations.

"At no time during the excavation being done on Oct. 21, 2016, was any type of cave-in protection, either metal trench boxes or tongue-and-groove wooden planks, used in the trench," Feigenbaum said.

Atlantic Drain Service employed the two workers killed when a trench flooded in the South End. (WBZ)

Prosecutors said Atlantic Drain was cited and fined twice in previous years for having workers in trenches without cave-in protection--once in 2007 for $15,000, and again in 2012 for $40,000.

Conley's office said the company agreed to provide training services as a result of those fines--but sign-in sheets for those trainings that were sent by the company to OSHA and Conley's office were doctored.

Defense attorney Camille Sarrouf said his client is remorseful for the death of the two men.

"I think he feels terrible about what happened. It's tragic. He was there when it occurred. These are people who he worked with," said Sarrouf.

Otto and his lawyer have not commented on the charges. Otto was also ordered to surrender his passport and check in with probation officers once per week, and is due back in court March 30.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports

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