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Nacimiento deaths bring criminal charges 

More than three years after arguably the worst accident in the construction of the Nacimiento Water Project, criminal charges were filed relating to the deaths of two Teichert Construction workers.

Teichert was hit with a double whammy: criminal charges against a former employee and a $3 million settlement agreement to the San Luis Obispo County Office of the District Attorney in the same week.

On Feb. 17, the District Attorney filed two felony counts of involuntary manslaughter against Henry “Hank” Duggins, the former Teichert site supervisor who oversaw a portion of the Nacimiento Water Project where Jake Gaines and Manuel Villagomez died in October 2008.

Gaines and Villagomez died while removing support struts from a piece of pipe laid in a trench. An excavator working on another section of the trench tore through an existing city water line in Paso Robles, trapping and drowning the two workers. Investigation documents at the time indicated there was confusion as to whether there were utility lines, and Duggins instructed the excavator operator to continue working even though he may have been reading a map upside down.

Duggins was also hit with two felony counts of violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

Gaines’ father, Bob, of Bakersfield, has been in regular contact with the District Attorney’s Office as it built a case.

“I’m glad to see it finally happened,” he told New Times. “It’s a long time waiting. … It helped bring some closure, obviously that will never finish completely.”

Duggins is scheduled for a March 9 arraignment in SLO County Superior Court. He could not be reached for comment.

The California division of OSHA levied two $70,000 fines for committing a “serious” and “willful” violation against Teichert in early 2009. The company is appealing those fines.

The District Attorney on Feb. 16 announced it had reached a separate settlement with Teichert, also relating to the accident. As part of the settlement, Teichert agreed to pay monetary relief of $3 million split among SLO County, the California District Attorneys Association, and the City of Paso Robles. The company further agreed to adopt new safety policies.

“This settlement provides a fair and proper conclusion to this sad event,” Teichert Chairman and CEO Jud Riggs said in a news release. “The agreement affirms Teichert’s commitment to safety while honoring the men who lost their lives.”

In August 2009, Teichert employee Tim A. Nelson was killed in an unrelated incident while working on the Nacimiento Water Project.

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