BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. — The owner of a now-defunct construction company has been sentenced on a charge of manslaughter after an employee died in a trench collapse in Breckenridge.
Peter Dillon, 54, of Gypsum had previously pleaded guilty to the charge, which is a Class 4 felony, on Aug. 3. On Thursday, a judge sentenced him to four years of probation, 90 days in jail as a condition of his probation and 300 hours of community service, according to the Fifth Judicial District Attorney's Office.
In November 2021, Dillon was the owner of the A4S Construction, and responsible for a residential construction site in Breckenridge where crews were installing a sewer line. On Nov. 16, employee Marlon Alfredo Diaz, 23, was fatally injured in a trench collapse at 206 Sallie Barber Road.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) began an investigation after the rescue efforts concluded. According to The Denver Post, OSHA investigators found that other trenches on the project had caved in on previous occasions, and that A4S Construction allegedly “refused to install trench protection systems, exposing workers to serious hazards.”
Dillon was cited on May 13, 2022 after OSHA determined how the worker died. The trench collapsed due to "deteriorating conditions at the project, which A4S LLC could have prevented by using legally required trench protection systems," OSHA said.
OSHA issued three willful citations to A4S LLC for "not ensuring the excavation was inspected by a competent person, failing to instruct employees on the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and not having a trench protective system in place," it stated. In addition, investigators issued a citation for not having a safe means of egress within 25 lateral feet of employees working in a trench. The citations — one was $14,502 and three were $145,027 each — totaled a penalty of $449,583 and put the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, according to OSHA.
OSHA recommended criminal charges against Dillon to the district attorney's office.
Dillon turned himself in on Jan. 25, 2023 after a Summit County judge issued an arrest warrant for him two days prior, according to a release from OSHA. Dillon pleaded guilty in August.
Based on the pre-sentencing investigation, Dillon had about 60 traffic violations in his lifetime, "showing a blatant lack of respect for the law and its consequences," the district attorney's office said.
“Business owners and supervisors have a responsibility to properly train and protect their employees from unsafe job conditions, and this tragedy was 100% preventable,” said Heidi McCollum, Fifth Judicial District Attorney. “Employers like Mr. Dillon who take shortcuts to save money at the expense of the safety of their employees will be held accountable, and employees should not have to work in dangerous situations just to keep their jobs."