Trench collapse

A photo from Juan Baez-Sanchez’s cellphone shows a man believed to be Victoriano Garcia-Perez in an 8-foot-deep trench on Mackay’s Indian Springs Ranch property.

Wilson developer Jamie Mackay and representatives of the men who died on his property have reached a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The settlement, filed last week in Teton County District Court, is under seal, meaning its contents are confidential.

Representatives for Juan Baez-Sanchez, 42, and Victoriano Garcia-Perez, 56, who suffocated when a trench collapsed on top of them on Sept. 28, 2018, said in a suit filed in June that Fireside Resort owner Jamie Mackay was 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 stated.

The “amount in controversy” listed in court files is $1 million, but the amount of money Mackay paid the plaintiffs to resolve the case is unknown.

“The case has resolved,” plaintiff’s attorney Mark Aronowitz told the News&Guide.

Attorneys could not provide more information because of confidentiality.

The men’s families sued Mackay claiming his “failures and negligence” caused their loved ones’ deaths. The men died while working in a 12-foot-deep trench at a construction site at 120 S. Indian Springs Drive, a property owned by Mackay. Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the site and cited Mackay for a lack of adequate cave-in protection, according to public records.

“No support systems, shield systems or other protective systems were being used,” the OSHA citation stated.

OSHA also cited Mackay for a lack of oversight.

A 119-page state investigation of the fatal trench collapse concluded that Mackay violated county permits and failed to properly report employee wages.

The report by the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Quality Assurance Manager and Investigator Chad Seidel included interviews with current and past Fireside Resorts employees, text messages from Mackay and allegations of a Fireside employee destroying evidence after the men’s deaths.

Teton County Prosecuting Attorney Erin Weisman decided not to file criminal charges against Mackay due to what she called insufficient evidence.

The U.S. Department of Labor launched an initiative last year to increase awareness of trenching hazards due to an increase of fatalities related to excavation.

Last month the owner of a drain pipe company in Boston was convicted of manslaughter in connection to two deaths of workers who drowned after a trench collapse in 2016, according to reporting by the Boston Herald.

A homebuilder in Warren County, Ohio, is being sued for $20 million in a wrongful death lawsuit over the 2017 death of a man who suffocated in a trench collapse, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier.

An excavating company in Windsor, Colorado, was fined more than $30,000 last month by OSHA for not providing adequate protections for workers who died in a trench collapse there in April, according to the Fort Collins Coloradoan.

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

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