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The Times' criminal justice team looks behind the scenes and behind the headlines.

November 17, 2010 at 11:45 AM

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Auburn propane company fined for deaths of two employees

Posted by John de Leon

-- From Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge:

An Auburn propane gas company where two employees died in May has been fined $8,400 and cited by the state Department of Labor and Industries for failure to properly train employees.

According to the citation issued this month, Ferrellgas did not ensure that employees maintained a minimum distance of 10 feet between energized high-voltage lines and any equipment they were using.

Mark Olson, 41, of Auburn, and Scott Pigg, 25, of University Place, Pierce County, were electrocuted on May 26 when the tip of a boom they were using to move propane tanks around the company yard in the 3600 block of A Street Southeast touched an overhead power line. The electrical wire sparked a fire that engulfed their truck.

Olson joined the company in January 2006 and worked as a field-installation specialist, setting up propane tanks for customers. Pigg began working for Ferrellgas in July 2007 and was a material handler at the Auburn yard.

According to L&I spokesman Hector Castro, Ferrellgas was extremely cooperative during the investigation into the deaths. Even before the citation was issued, the company had taken steps to prevent similar tragedies, he said.

"It was very traumatic to them and they got rid of the crane and moved all the propane tanks away from the power lines," Castro said. "They just hadn't realized the hazard the power line posed."

The deaths were the state's 35th and 36th workplace fatalities, compared with the 20 deaths investigated by the department as of May 27, 2009, according to Castro.

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