Two former supervisors have agreed to pay $450K to the families of two workers who were decapitated in a boiler explosion. If they don’t pay within a year’s time, they’re going to jail.
Former plant manager Carl Richardson and former maintenance supervisor Roy Faulkinbury both pleaded no contest to two felony charges in connection with the March 19, 2009, explosion at Solus Industrial Innovations, a plastics manufacturer in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.
The explosion killed Jose Jimenez, 51, and Isidro Echeverria, 34. Two other employees were injured. Echeverria’s body was found by his brother who also worked at the plant.
The blast also blew the roof off the building. The plant never re-opened.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office says the boiler blew up because the company had been trying to save money. As a result, it paid a high cost (loss of employee lives) due to a lack of safety.
In 2007, Solus relocated from Pennsylvania to California. The DA’s office says the company intentionally discarded a commercial boiler to avoid the cost and permitting requirements of proper installation.
According to grand jury testimony, the two supervisors decided not to use a commercial boiler because it would require a gas line. Instead, they bought a $500 residential water heater from a consumer hardware store. The water heater was used to melt plastic as part of Solus’ manufacturing process.
The DA’s office says the overworked water heater developed problems, including leaks and a blown pressure relief valve. The prosecutors say despite those problems, plant supervisors never got the heater fixed or inspected and instead had employees try to keep it running.
Prosecutors have agreed that if Richardson and Faulkinbury pay the victims’ families within 90 days and perform one-third of their community service within a year, a judge will reduce their charges to misdemeanors and sentence them to probation.
If they don’t comply, they will be sentenced to three months in jail.
The DA’s office also filed a civil lawsuit against Solus, saying the company knowingly maintained an unsafe work environment that resulted in the two deaths. That case is still pending.
The civil lawsuit seeks penalties and restitution in an amount to be determined at trial.