Drain company owner gets 2 years for fatal South End trench collapse

Drain company owner gets 2 years for fatal South End trench collapse

BOSTON — The owner of a Massachusetts drain company who was found responsible for the deaths of two of his workers in a trench collapse three years ago was sentenced Thursday to two years in jail.

Kevin Otto, however, was allowed by a judge to remain free for at least a few more weeks pending the filing of a motion by his defense team to reconsider the verdict.

Otto also must serve three years of probation following his sentence, and he can never employ anyone in a job that involves excavation, the Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled.

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The sentence was far less than the seven to 10 years that prosecutors had requested. Otto's attorneys had suggested probation or a suspended sentence, saying he was the sole provider for an elderly mother and a son and “grieves” for his lost workers.

Otto, the owner of now-defunct Atlantic Drain Service, was convicted in October of two counts of manslaughter in the October 2016 deaths of Kelvin Mattocks, 53, of Brockton, and Robert Higgins, 47, of Warren, Rhode Island.

The workers were in a trench in Boston's South End when a fire hydrant collapsed and flooded the 14-foot-deep hole with water. Both drowned despite frantic rescue efforts.

Prosecutors said Otto, 45, had a history of safety violations and should have installed cave-in protections, known as trench boxes, at the site. The company had twice before been told by federal regulators that trench boxes were needed at company work sites.

Otto's lawyer said at trial there was no proof that the lack of a trench box caused the hydrant to collapse, and there was no evidence the hydrant was installed correctly by the city.