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Business owner found guilty of manslaughter in worker deaths

A Boston court on Thursday found a drain company owner guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of two workers who drowned when a trench collapsed.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Kaplan found Atlantic Drain Services Inc. and its owner, Kevin Otto, of Blackstone, Massachusetts, knowingly and willfully placed its employees in extreme danger by failing to use cave-in protection, according to a statement from the office of the Suffolk County district attorney released Thursday. Mr. Otto had waived his right to a trial by jury.

At the eight-day trial, representatives from the district attorney’s office alleged that Mr. Otto “lied and produced false documentation” after the deaths of the two men.

In 2016, Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks were killed in a trench collapse in Boston’s South End while working to install water and sewer lines. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration had cited the company in 2007 and 2012 for failing to use safety precautions and had required that the company provide comprehensive safety training to its workers.

On the day of the incident, a fire hydrant collapsed on the side of the trench where the two men were working, filling the trench with water in seconds and drowning them.

In court, the district attorney’s office alleged that the company attempted to mislead the investigation by falsifying documents, including sign-in sheets for excavation and trenching training, as well as workers’ signed acknowledgement of receiving personal safety equipment, said the statement.

Sentencing for Mr. Otto will take place Dec. 4.