Representatives for two men who suffocated after a trench collapsed on top of them in September say in a suit filed Tuesday that Fireside Resort owner and Wilson developer Jamie Mackay is to blame.
“Their deaths were entirely preventable and caused by dangerous work conditions and a complete and abject failure to provide reasonably safe methods and reasonably safe protection for the kind of work they were hired to perform,” the complaint states.
Juan Baez Sanchez, 42, and Victoriano Garcia Perez, 56, died while working in a 12-foot-deep trench at a construction site at 120 S. Indian Springs Drive, a property owned by Mackay.
“Defendant Mackay’s failures and negligence caused these deaths,” the plaintiffs’ complaint states.
The wrongful death complaint includes a photo of the trench where the men’s bodies were found and text messages reportedly from Mackay to the deceased giving job-related orders and containing information indicating the work site was in violation of local and state regulations.
“There was no trench box and no safe means of egress from the 12-foot-deep and 41-foot-long trench,” it states. “Had any appropriately trained person inspected the job site, the fatal cave-in could have been avoided.”
In March, Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed penalizing Mackay up to $10,532 for “serious” violations.
The citations noted several unsafe conditions at the job site, which OSHA inspected Oct. 4.
Mackay was cited for a lack of adequate cave-in protection, something law enforcement noticed in its initial investigation of the site.
“No support systems, shield systems or other protective systems were being used,” the OSHA citation reads.
OSHA also cited Mackay for a lack of oversight.
Text messages in the complaint include work orders from Mackay to the laborers and discussion of payment and overtime.
On Aug. 26, 2018, plaintiffs say, Mackay texted Baez Sanchez, “Keep working regardless of what anyone says.”
On Sept. 28 a delivery driver noticed an unoccupied idling excavator and then saw the partially buried body of Baez Sanchez, the complaint states.
“It took emergency responders approximately eight hours to recover the bodies of Mr. Juan Baez-Sanchez who was partially buried, and Mr. Victoriano Garcia-Perez who was completely buried,” the complaint states.
After the incident Wyoming OSHA, the Department of Workforce Services Employer Services and the Teton County Sheriff’s Office all conducted investigations.
But no criminal charges have been filed.
According to court documents, beneficiaries of Baez Sanchez and Garcia Perez are seeking $1 million each in damages.
The complaint was filed jointly by attorneys Patrick Crank, Mark Lagod Aronowitz and Elisabeth Trefonas on behalf of Isabel Baez and Rick Thomas, wrongful death representatives for the men.
“Defendant Mackay and defendant Fireside Resort Inc. failed to pay workers’ compensation premiums to the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation fund on behalf of their employees Mr. Baez Sanchez and Mr. Garcia Perez,” the complaint reads. “Employers have a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that the employer or the industry recognizes, or should recognize, as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees, when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard.”
As far as potential criminal charges, Teton County Prosecutor Erin Weisman couldn’t say what charges may be on the table. The case is still under review.
“I’m still in the process of reviewing the investigative reports to determine what, if any charges may be filed,” Weisman told the News&Guide on Tuesday.