State fines highway contractor in manhole deaths
Posted November 22, 2011
Durham, N.C. — 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.