SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Hultgren Construction has reached a plea agreement with the federal government to plead guilty to a misdemeanor for its role in the December 2, 2016 Copper Lounge building collapse in Sioux Falls.
South Dakota’s U.S. Attorney charged Hultgren Construction with violating health and safety rules resulting in the death of an employee.
Construction worker Ethan McMahon was killed while crews were removing a 38-inch load bearing wall, which resulted in the collapse.
In the plea agreement, Hultgren construction admits:
On or about and at times prior to December 2, 2016, the controlling and exposing employer, did not sufficiently instruct employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions related to temporary shoring supporting a multi-story building. Employees were tasked to remove two adjoining exterior load bearing walls between the ground level and first floor. Employees were not sufficiently instructed in the means and methods for building and installing a temporary shoring system to transfer the budding loads from the foundation to the shoring system. In the morning hours of December 2, 2016, an employee was fatally injured as a result of removing the last segment of the load bearing wall, thereby causing the structure to collapse.
The charge of “Willful Violation of the Occupational, Safety, and Health Act Causing Death to Employee” comes with a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine and five years probation.
No criminal charges have been levied against the owners of the company, Aaron Hultgren, Larry Canfield, Norm Drake and Paul Cink.
OSHA previously found 25 different violations against Hultgren Construction resulting in nearly $100,000 in fines. OSHA also fined the temp agency,Command Center Incorporated, more than $114,000 for violations.
These fines stemmed from not having proper safety equipment, training and other issues.
Last month a multi-million dollar settlement was reached in civil lawsuits over the collapse.
In the latest federal plea agreement, Hultgren Construction also admits:
Hultgren Construction’s acts and omissions exhibited a general indifference to a known and obvious hazard. Hultgren Construction knowingly permitted employees to engage in demolition activities without sufficient training to ensure that a licensed engineering professional first prepared an engineermg analysis to assess the structural stability of the budding, including the planned temporary shoring systems.