BOSTON (CBS) – A Suffolk Superior Court judge has convicted the owner of a drain pipe company of manslaughter in connection with the drowning of two workers in a South End trench collapse on Oct. 21, 2016.

Kevin Otto quickly left the courthouse without comment, but for the families of the victims, a guilty verdict was a bittersweet outcome.

“We’re happy with the outcome. It doesn’t bring Robbie back, but it’s the best case considering the circumstances,” said Ashley Hewitt, the cousin of Robert Higgins.

Higgins died in the trench collapse along with 53-year-old Kelvin Mattocks. They were working inside a trench in Boston’s South End when the walls collapsed and a nearby hydrant ruptured, overwhelming them with a rush of water.

The company was digging a trench on Dartmouth Street in the South End on Oct. 21, 2016 when it flooded and the walls collapsed. (WBZ-TV)

Martin Hewitt, Higgins’ uncle, said his death was unnecessary. “I’m not a vindictive person, but a couple of men are not around anymore as a result of negligence.”

The defense tried to blame the city for failing to maintain the hydrant, but prosecutors said Otto, the owner of Atlantic Drain Service, failed his employees by failing to shore up the trench at the Dartmouth Street work site. He’s been cited for similar safety violations twice before by OSHA.

“I’m hoping this puts some backbone into OSHA’s fines and what they can do. They’re there for the worker,” said Martin Hewitt.

Outside court, Kevin Otto’s attorney would only say he’s remorseful. “We already said apologies to the families before now. We’ll let justice play out,” said defense attorney Aviva Jeruchim.

Otto will return to court Dec. 4 for sentencing.

Beth Germano


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