By Beth Germano

BOSTON (CBS) — Outside her door Mirtha Colon sees the aftermath of the scene she won’t soon forget: the desperate attempt to rescue two workers from a 12 foot-trench flooding with water from a ruptured pipe on Dartmouth Street.

“The water bubbling up, bubbling up, it was absolutely horrible,” Colon said.

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The victims have been identified by family as 47-year-old Robert Higgins and 53-year-old Kelvin Mattocks.

Kelvin Mattocks (via Facebook).

Kelvin Mattocks (via Facebook).

“He was just a genuinely nice guy. I know it’s a cliché that he’d give you the shirt off his back but he would truly do that for you,” Greg Stevens, who owns a store around the corner from the Roslindale office of Atlantic Drain, said of Mattocks.

Robert Higgins. (WBZ)

Robert Higgins. (WBZ)

“He was just a kind person. He was an average, gentle kind person, always there to help you out,” Higgins’ aunt Marilyn Hewitt said of her nephew.

The company was on a private job installing a sewer pipe, but now safety experts want to take a closer look at whether precautions were in place on the job.

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“There’s enough of a history that this should not have happened,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

Atlantic Drain Service employed the two workers killed when a trench flooded in the South End. (WBZ)

Atlantic Drain Service employed the two workers killed when a trench flooded in the South End. (WBZ)

It was back in 2007 that MassCosh first reported that Atlantic Drain employees were on a job with no cave-in protection. Since then OSHA has cited the company numerous times, including a “willful” violation that workers were “not protected from cave-ins” back in 2012. A “serious” violation that they were in “possible danger of head injury” without being required to wear protective helmets. And a “repeat” violation that required rescue team were not on job sites.

Questions are being raised about how a company with numerous safety violations and tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding fines can continue to get permits for jobs.

“There’s a huge gaping hole in state law and the permitting process that allows an employer to claim they are familiar with trenching procedures, but have a history of violating them and are still able to obtain a permit,” said Goldstein-Gelb.

It’s not clear why the water line ruptured in the first place, only questions about what led to the sudden deaths of two workers on the job.

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“His death was tragic, and from what we’ve heard, it should not have happened,” Hewitt said.

Beth Germano