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Charges filed in fatal Petaluma construction accident

A San Rafael-based engineering firm and an ex-foreman face misdemeanor charges in a 2015 construction accident in which an employee was crushed to death near the side of Highway 101 by a 7,800-pound concrete pipe.

Sonoma County prosecutors allege Maggiora & Ghilotti Inc. and its former supervisor, Mark Greving, failed to take appropriate safety precautions in the April 15, 2015 accident that killed Jared Overfield, 28, of Novato.

Overfield was working at a water pipe replacement project on Kastania Road in south Petaluma when another employee operating a forklift unloaded the 40-foot pipe onto sloping land. It began to roll and Overfield, who was standing downhill, fell beneath it.

“Jared Overfield struggled to hold the pipe steady until it crushed him and rolled down the hillside toward Highway 101, rolling over a fence and stopping short of the highway,” according to a criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege the company and Greving, who was at the scene, failed to use chock blocks or other safety devices that could have prevented the accident. The ex-foreman and the firm are each charged with misdemeanor violations of the state labor code. They face statutory fines totaling more than $2.5 million.

Also, the company was cited by workplace regulators with Cal-OSHA.

They have pleaded not guilty and appealed the citations. A lawyer for the firm, Chris Andrian, said evidence shows Overfield and the forklift operator were to blame because they were not following safety training they received from the company.

“They made a couple of bad choices and they knew better,” Andrian said Tuesday.

Greving’s lawyer, Orchid Vaghti, said it was a tragedy but not a crime. She said prosecutors didn’t decide to bring charges until just before the statute of limitations ran out ?10 months after the death.

“It’s really unfortunate this is being charged as a crime,” Vaghti said. “You’re talking about a tragic accident where a man obviously died.”

A spokesman for District Attorney Jill Ravitch would not comment Tuesday on the ongoing case. A hearing to set a trial date is Jan. 24.

You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 707-568-5312 or paul.payne@pressdemocrat.com. ?On Twitter @ppayne.

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