Lawsuit: Firms to Pay $2.3 Million to Estate of Former OSHA Chief's Son

May 1, 2006
Six years after a chunk of concrete fell and killed Kevin Auchter on an Albers, Ill., demolition site, Auchter's estate has been awarded $2.3 million by the project's general contractor and a subcontractor.

Auchter, the son of former OSHA Administrator Thorne Auchter, was working on a project involving the demolition of two concrete coal-storage silos at the Monterey Coal Co. plant. On Feb. 24, 2000, according to Auchter's attorneys, Auchter was helping to prepare one of the silos for implosion when a large piece of concrete weighing between 40 and 70 tons was jarred loose from within the silo, fell toward the ground and landed on Auchter, killing him instantly.

Thorne Auchter, who headed OSHA from 1981 to 1984, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ciminelli Services Corp., the general contractor, and RBS Excavating Inc., a subcontractor to Ciminelli Services, on behalf of his son's estate. Settling the lawsuit just prior to jury selection, Ciminelli Services paid $2 million to Auchter's estate, while RBS Excavating contributed $300,000.

Lawsuit: No Engineering Survey Was Conducted

According to Auchter's lawsuit, on the morning of the fatality RBS Excavating was instructed to bring in a larger excavating machine to speed up the chipping of a portion of the silo which was composed of a type of concrete known as lean concrete in preparation for implosion. The RBS Excavating operator aggressively chipped away, causing the large piece of lean concrete to fall on Auchter, the lawsuit contends.

Auchter's lawsuit alleges that Ciminelli Services did not conduct a demolition engineering survey to determine the condition of the lean concrete prior to removing it.

The suit also contends that Ciminelli Services did not ascertain the strength and viscosity of the inside shell's lean concrete prior to allowing subcontractors to chip at it and to have workers stationed below at the base of the silo.

"There's a very good reason why federal regulations and demolition standards obligate companies like Ciminelli and RBS to prepare engineering surveys before the dangerous process of taking down large structures begins," said Philip Corboy Jr., who, along with Edward Willer, represented Auchter's estate. "Engineering surveys prepare you for the unexpected. In this case, had there been a survey prepared and followed through on, I'm confident Kevin never would have found himself in harm's way on that fateful afternoon."

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