Third death further taints Nacimiento project



A third man has died working to feed new water to SLO County. Tim A. Nelson, a 29-year-old worker for Teichert Construction, was killed on Aug. 20 while working on the Nacimiento Water Project.


Nelson was killed by a dump truck that backed over him while he was working on a section of the project in Camp Roberts, according to the SLO County Sheriff’s Department. The truck’s back-up alarm was functioning at the time. There was no explanation as of press time why Nelson did not get out of the vehicle’s path.


Nelson’s death is the third in less than a year for Teichert. Jake Gaines and Manuel Villagomez drowned while working on a section of the pipe in Paso Robles last October. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) levied its maximum penalties and fines against Teichert after that accident, totaling $140,000. Teichert appealed the citation, which has not yet been heard by Cal/OSHA’s appeals board. The Cal/OSHA Bureau of Investigation has since opened a new investigation into the accident.


Nelson, of Oak View, was a member of several church organizations and an avid outdoorsman, according to his obituary in Ventura County Star.


Construction crews broke ground in October of 2007 to lay the 45-mile water pipeline from Paso Robles to San Luis Obispo. There are five contractors simultaneously working on the $176 million project. Dean Fryer, a Cal OSHA spokesman, said these types of large projects with multiple crews are inherently more dangerous.


“Construction in general … has a higher risk of accidents,” Fryer said. “It’s just more hazardous. And when you’re talking about a project such as this pipeline project, where there are many different contractors on site and a lot of activity, the risk factors do go up.”


Regardless of the increased danger, multiple deaths in less than a year is still high, he added. “Three fatalities in such a short span obviously is a concern and even one fatality is too many.”


Because the accident occurred on federal land, the federal Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (or OSHA) is overseeing the investigation into Nelson’s death. An OSHA spokesperson said investigators are still on site and a final report should be ready in about six months.


Teichert Vice President Steve Mitchell issued a brief statement following Nelson’s death.


“Members of the Teichert Construction family are deeply saddened by the death of one of our co-workers yesterday,” Mitchell wrote. He did not return a call for further comment.

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