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Families ID Workers Killed In South End Trench Flooding

BOSTON (CBS) -- Outside her door Mirtha Colon sees the aftermath of the scene she won't soon forget: the desperate attempt to rescue two workers from a 12 foot-trench flooding with water from a ruptured pipe on Dartmouth Street.

"The water bubbling up, bubbling up, it was absolutely horrible," Colon said.

The victims have been identified by family as 47-year-old Robert Higgins and 53-year-old Kelvin Mattocks.

Kelvin Mattocks (via Facebook).

"He was just a genuinely nice guy. I know it's a cliché that he'd give you the shirt off his back but he would truly do that for you," Greg Stevens, who owns a store around the corner from the Roslindale office of Atlantic Drain, said of Mattocks.

Robert Higgins. (WBZ)

"He was just a kind person. He was an average, gentle kind person, always there to help you out," Higgins' aunt Marilyn Hewitt said of her nephew.

The company was on a private job installing a sewer pipe, but now safety experts want to take a closer look at whether precautions were in place on the job.

"There's enough of a history that this should not have happened," said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

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

It was back in 2007 that MassCosh first reported that Atlantic Drain employees were on a job with no cave-in protection. Since then OSHA has cited the company numerous times, including a "willful" violation that workers were "not protected from cave-ins" back in 2012. A "serious" violation that they were in "possible danger of head injury" without being required to wear protective helmets. And a "repeat" violation that required rescue team were not on job sites.

Questions are being raised about how a company with numerous safety violations and tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding fines can continue to get permits for jobs.

"There's a huge gaping hole in state law and the permitting process that allows an employer to claim they are familiar with trenching procedures, but have a history of violating them and are still able to obtain a permit," said Goldstein-Gelb.

It's not clear why the water line ruptured in the first place, only questions about what led to the sudden deaths of two workers on the job.

"His death was tragic, and from what we've heard, it should not have happened," Hewitt said.

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