Epoxy Maker Indicted for Involuntary Manslaughter in Boston Tunnel Collapse
Powers Fasteners Inc., the Brewster, N.Y.-based company that marketed and distributed the epoxy anchor bolt system used in portions of the I-90 "Big Dig" Connector Tunnel in Boston, has been indicted in connection with the July 10, 2006, ceiling panel collapse that killed Milena Del Valle, age 38, of Jamaica Plain. A Suffolk Grand Jury returned an indictment Aug. 8 charging Powers with one count of involuntary manslaughter.
"The investigation into the death of Milena Del Valle and the tunnel ceiling collapse is extraordinarily complicated and involves a number of different parties," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley on Aug. 8. "Today's indictment represents one of several phases in reaching a just result for both the Commonwealth and the family of Milena Del Valle. We continue to work diligently on both our criminal and civil investigations, and as they proceed to additional phases and the conclusion of those phases, we are committed to transparency with the public as we reach additional results."
Coakley said authorities--including the state police, the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General, and the FBI--had, over the course of a 13-month ongoing investigation, found that Powers marketed two epoxy products, Power-Fast Fast Set epoxy, and Power-Fast Standard Set epoxy. Investigators found that Powers had known since at least 1991, when it first began marketing its Power-Fast Fast Set epoxy, that the Fast Set product was unsuitable for sustained loads based upon the corporation's own "creep" testing. However, consistently since 1991, Powers' marketing materials did not differentiate clearly between the two Power-Fast products, nor did they mention the Fast Set product's susceptibility to "creep."
Authorities determined that these materials were provided to tunnel project managers and engineers. In addition, investigators found that Powers did not make Bechtel/Parsons Brinkerhoff, Gannett Fleming, or Modern Continental aware of the difference between the Power-Fast Fast Set and Power-Fast Standard Set with respect to "creep" resistance, and therefore with respect to the suitability of the Fast Set epoxy for heavy ceiling panels. The investigation also uncovered that Powers was aware, as early as 1999, that its Fast Set product was being used for a sustained overhead load in the ceiling tunnel, yet the corporation did not take any steps to caution the Project managers against use of the Fast Set product for that application.
Based upon the findings of this investigation, authorities now allege that Powers knew that its epoxy product was being used in the tunnel, and when provided with the opportunity, failed to differentiate to project managers between its Fast Set and Standard Set products. Authorities further allege that Powers failed to reveal this fact in either its marketing material, or when it was specifically asked. The indictment charges that Powers had the necessary knowledge and the opportunity to prevent the fatal ceiling collapse but failed to do so, and that this wanton or reckless conduct resulted in the death of Del Valle.
Last month, NTSB faulted Powers in the tunnel collapse, and last week it issued a recommendation that the company specify on packaging that fast-set epoxy was good only for "short-term loads." In a statement, company president Jeffrey Powers said "we are stunned, beyond belief" at the indictment. An arraignment date has been scheduled for September 5 in Suffolk Superior Court. Special Assistant Attorney General Paul Ware, chairman of the Litigation Department at the Boston firm Goodwin Procter LLP, is overseeing the prosecution team for the case.