Two men indicted by the Orange County Grand Jury were in court Friday for willfully endangering employees by maintaining a hazardous work environment after a foreseeable and avoidable water heater explosion killed two employees and injured another.
Roy Thomas Faulkinbury of Corona and Carl Edward Richardson, formerly of Yorba Linda, were indicted Dec. 20 on two felony counts of willful violation causing death in a Rancho Santa Margarita sprocket company.
If convicted, the two 60-year-old men face a maximum of three years in Orange County jail and a $250,000 fine. The defendants are out of custody and are scheduled for a continued arraignment on the indictment Feb. 8, 2013, in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.
A civil suit was filed July 6, 2012, against the plastics manufacturing corporations Solus Industrial Innovations, LLC of Rancho Santa Margarita, Emerson Power Transmission Corporation, and Emerson Electric for willfully operating an unsafe work environment, which resulted in the death of two employees in RSM.
On July 12, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) released a press release with the following information on the civil case, and Faulkinbury and Richardson are accused of the following:
Beginning in 2007, the defendants are accused of controlling a workplace and managing employees in a plastics manufacturing plant in Rancho Santa Margarita. They are accused of willfully, knowingly, and intentionally maintaining an unsafe and hazardous work environment for employees under their control.
When the business relocated certain operations from Pennsylvania to Orange County in 2007, the defendants are accused of intentionally discarding a commercial boiler to avoid the cost and permitting requirements of proper installation. The defendants are accused of instead purchasing and installing an inexpensive residential water heater, knowing that it was not equipped to function at a commercial level.
When the residential water heater was unable to heat to the necessary levels for plastic melting, the defendants are accused of, among other things, altering the automatic safety shut-off protection and installing a new temperature control device to force the heater to work at dangerous levels above its capacity. The residential water heater frequently showed signs of distress, including leaking and a blown safety valve.
The water heater exploded on March 19, 2009. Two employees, Jose Jimenez and Isidro Echeverria, were instantly killed in the explosion. One of the victims was decapitated from the force of the blast. A third employee was injured. The explosion blew through the roof and destroyed the building. The defendants never re-opened the business in Orange County.
The complaint charges willful violations of worker safety laws in disregard for employee safety by the defendants.