2 fined in cave-in death MOSH says trench was not shored up

July 16, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The state has levied more than $42,000 in fines against two men in charge of digging a 12-foot trench that caved in four months ago, killing a 32-year-old wanderer who lived in a backyard trailer at the Crownsville home.

One of the penalties -- $30,500 for not shoring up the 200-foot trench -- may be the largest the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office has levied for one safety violation since the maximum fines increased in January.

In that one violation, the state said Rodger and Arthur Myers, who live in the 700 block of Old Herald Harbor Road, willfully neglected to protect the trench from caving in, burying Aaron Roger "Skip" Duckworth alive.

Four other violations, called serious, each brought $3,050 in fines. They range from employees who were not trained to recognize or avoid hazards to failing to provide a means of escape from the trench, such as a ladder.

Before January, the maximum fine for a "willful" violation was $10,000 and the maximum penalty for a "serious" violation was $1,000.

"It's a pretty good fine," said Betty Duckworth, Aaron's mother. "It still doesn't bring my son back. It just doesn't seem like it is enough to me. My son is gone forever."

Mrs. Duckworth said she still has questions about the case, especially why her son was in the trench by himself.

"No man should have been down in that hole by himself," she said.

Firefighters dug for 12 hours March 15 and 16 before recovering the man's body, wedged against a wall six feet below the earth's surface.

In an interview the night of the accident, Rodger Myers said Mr. Duckworth was working alone to dig a sewer line to his trailer, so he could have a toilet.

But police, fire officials and the victim's family disputed that claim. Police said Arthur and Rodger Myers were helping him dig the trench, took a coffee break and returned to find the cave-in. Fire officials said that when they arrived at the home shortly past 3 p.m., two people were frantically trying to dig out the trench.

No state official familiar with this case would comment yesterday, citing the governor's new rules prohibiting employees from talking to the news media.

Mr. Duckworth's death was the second cave-in fatality in Anne Arundel County in a year. In March 1991, Brian James Para, 21, a plumber's apprentice, was killed when a sewer trench he was working in collapsed at a Crofton development.

The president of the Davidsonville plumbing company Mr. Para worked for was indicted in March on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. The trial for Ronald Razzano, 41, of Bowie, is scheduled for August.

Deputy State's Attorney Gerald Anders said yesterday that his office is investigating the Crownsville case and will make a determination about possible grand jury proceedings after reviewing MOSH reports.

MOSH fined the company involved in the Crofton case, Razzano and Fohner Inc., $16,950. But that was before the revisions up

ping the maximum fines, sparked by pleas from Mr. Para's mother, Joan, went into affect.

The new regulations allow MOSH to fine companies between $10,000 and $70,000 for single violations. Officials would not comment on whether this is the largest fine under the new law, but Sun records showed this was the first fatal cave-in where the new law applies.

The Myerses have 15 days from when they receive the violation list to contest the state's findings and request either a hearing or an informal conference. The violation notice is dated July 6.

Arthur Myers, who said yesterday that he has not read the MOSH report, declined to comment.

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