Judge Hears Victim Statements In Trench Collapse Trial

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — The drain company owner found guilty of manslaughter after two workers were killed in a collapsed trench in 2016 will be sentenced by a judge Thursday morning.

Kevin Otto of Blackstone, owner of Atlantic Drain Services, was convicted in October. He faces up to 20 years behind bars, and his company faces a nearly $250,000 fine.

Workers Kelvin Mattocks and Robert Higgins were working in a trench in Boston's South End in October 2016 when it collapsed and flooded, killing them.

Otto was convicted in a bench trial after prosecutors said he and his company had a record of safety violations and did not install the proper cave-in protections in the trench.

In a hearing in Suffolk Superior Court Wednesday morning, the victims' families asked the judge to send a message to employers about workplace safety.

"My son was a great kid, had a great big heart," Joe Vancuzzo told the court about Higgins. "You're gonna show other contractors they're not gonna do that in this city or this state, or they're gonna pay for it, and, your honor, you will save lives that way."

Higgins' sister, Jennifer Lewis, placed the blame for the men's deaths squarely on Otto.

"My brother's life was put in a position of unreasonable risk for the personal and monetary gain of Atlantic Drain and Kevin Otto," she said. "Mr. Otto was aware of the dangers, but was more concerned with making money than the well-being of his workers."

Otto's attorney said incarceration should not act as a public policy deterrent.

"He's essentially living hand-to-mouth," his defense attorney said. "He provides for his elderly mother, his sister who is disabled, and his son who is disabled. They all rely upon him to survive."

The defense urged the judge to give Otto probation or a suspended sentence, instead of the 7-10 years recommended by the state.

"The defendant has grieved for the victims," his attorney said. "He was very close with them. He still continues to grieve."

The hearing wrapped up around noon, with the judge announcing he'd issue a ruling Thursday morning—giving him time to consider statements from victims.

WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports

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