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2 charged with manslaughter in fatal trench collapse in Vernon

VERNON, Conn. (AP) — A construction company owner and an employee were charged with manslaughter Friday in connection with a trench collapse in Connecticut last year that killed a 56-year-old worker.

Vernon police said they arrested Dennis Botticello, 67, owner of Manchester-based Botticello Inc., and equipment operator Glen Locke, 65. Both were charged with first-degree manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges, and were detained on $50,000 bail pending court hearings on Monday.

No trench collapse safety devices were being used July 22 when a section of the 8-feet deep (2.4 meters deep) trench collapsed onto Botticello Inc. worker Dennis Slater, police and workplace safety officials said. Slater, of East Windsor, died from his injuries.

The trench had collapsed two previous times the same day as it was being dug to install piping for a housing development in Vernon, officials said. Although the company had “trench boxes” for preventing collapses, it did not use them on July 22 and did not have a ladder leading out of the trench within 25 feet of workers as required, police and safety officials said.

In January, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommended $375,000 in penalties for safety violations connected to the collapse. The agency said federal safety standards require protective systems for trenches deeper than 5 feet (1.5 meters), amid other requirements.

OSHA also had cited Botticello Inc. for four serious trenching violations in 2015, in another town.

“This deadly cave-in and the worker’s death should never have happened,” OSHA Area Director Dale Varney said in a statement in January.

It was not immediately clear if Botticello and Locke had lawyers who could respond to the allegations. Phone messages were left at Botticello Inc. and a number for Locke on Friday.

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