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State fines highway contractor in manhole deaths

Posted November 22, 2011

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— The state Department of Labor fined a company $16,000 Tuesday for workplace safety violations after two men suffocated in a manhole in Durham last summer.

Jesus Martinez Benitez, 32, of Clayton, and Luis Castaneda Gomez, 34, of Durham, were working for Triangle Grading and Paving when they became trapped in a manhole at U.S. Highway 70, near Leesville Road, on June 7.

One of the men went down the manhole and suffocated because of low oxygen levels. The other man saw his co-worker was in trouble and went into the hole to rescue him and also suffocated, officials said.

The manhole led to an underground access point for utilities, and authorities described the space as a 4- by 6-foot concrete bunker about 10 to 12 feet below the surface.

The Department of Labor found Triangle Grading committed four serious violations, including not testing the manhole first to ensure it was safe to enter, not having the proper rescue equipment available, not providing employees with the necessary respiratory protection and not having a trained supervisor on site.

Triangle Grading has 15 business days to pay the penalty or appeal.


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  • geoherb1 Nov 23, 2011

    I hope their families will be able to collect a substantial sum. But no amount of money will bring the men back.

  • miseem Nov 22, 2011

    Don't need no job killing regulations. Business knows what's right, government don't.

  • pipcolt Nov 22, 2011

    This is what happens when big boss man hires cheap labor.

  • Iworkforaliving Nov 22, 2011

    16k for two lives? seriously wrong.

  • uragoner2 Nov 22, 2011

    If I worked for that company, I'd carry a pack of matches with me.

  • Rebelyell55 Nov 22, 2011

    Should of been more. This is what happens when goverment contracts out jobs, and can't verify the workforce. Cheap labor and no regard for the safety of that cheap labor. The fine for a lost of life, that is way too low, there actually should be a crimminal investigation.

  • hp277 Nov 22, 2011

    The fine should be 10 times whatever the company saved by taking shortcuts on worker safety.

    That's the only way to keep this kind of thing from happening - make it too costly for companies to not comply with the law.

  • luckn4u2 Nov 22, 2011

    That's the only way the Dept of Labor get's involved,its when there is a fatality or fatalaties and they have no choice..

  • rebelyell57 Nov 22, 2011

    The fines should be more for violations like this.

  • dsjackson Nov 22, 2011

    I agree with the comment that 16 grand is mighty cheap for two lives lost . I don't know if these two were legal , but it just shows how companies sometimes put workers in harm's way with no regard for the outcome .