Almost two years after a deadly trench collapse at a West Seattle worksite, the owner of the company that employed the victim has been charged with criminal manslaughter. The announcement late today from the state Department of Labor and Industries says this is “the first time a Washington employer has faced felony charges for a workplace fatality.” 36-year-old Harold Felton was killed January 26, 2016, when the dirt walls of a trench collapsed during side-sewer work at a house in the 3000 block of 36th SW. Seven months later, the state cited Alki Construction LLC for seven violations, as reported here. And now, the company’s owner, 40-year-old Phillip Numrich, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. The announcement quotes L&I director Joel Sacks as saying, “There are times when a monetary penalty isn’t enough. This company knew what the safety risks and requirements were, and ignored them. The felony charges show that employers can be held criminally accountable when the tragedy of a preventable workplace death or injury occurs.” We’ve looked up the court documents, which were not included in the L&I news release; Numrich has been charged with two counts, second-degree manslaughter and “violation of labor safety regulation with death resulting.” The documents note that he and the victim not only had an employer-employee relationship, they were longtime friends. Mr. Felton was the first person killed in a trenching incident in our state in more than seven years.
West Seattle, Washington