The company involved in a pair of construction fatalities in downtown Boston Wednesday and its owner have a lengthy history of workplace violations and legal disputes in recent years, court and inspection records show.
A crew from Atlantic Coast Utilities was repairing a sewer line for an office building on High Street Wednesday morning when two workers were hit by a truck and knocked into a mattress-size hole in the road. Jordan Romero, 27, and Juan Carlos Figueroa Gutierrez, 33, were killed, authorities said.
Authorities have released few details about the crash, which horrified onlookers and drew distraught relatives to the scene. A witness said the men were sitting on the edge of the construction hole when a person got into a company-owned Ford truck, raced the engine, and backed into the two men.
Gutierrez’s oldest sister, Edna Sanchez, said he came to the Boston area from Guatemala 12 years ago to join his parents. He quickly started working in construction and later married a woman from El Salvador and settled in Chelsea. They had an 11-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
“He was such a responsible father and hard worker,” Sanchez said in Spanish Thursday. He was saving money to build a house in his hometown in eastern Guatemala. He wanted his children to go to college and “be someone,” Sanchez said.
“He didn’t want them to have to run around working the way he did,” she said.
A family friend has opened a GoFundMe page to help the Gutierrez family with funeral expenses.
Romero was newly married, his sister said Wednesday. He was full of life, a hard worker, and a good father.
Atlantic Coast Utilities, based in Boston, has been cited for a range of safety violations since it was created in 2015, from employing a truck driver who was not properly licensed to failing to mark a dig site properly, a review of federal and state records show.
In 2008, the company’s owner, Laurence M. Moloney, pleaded guilty to failing to pay his workers a prevailing wage and their earned overtime that year, when he owned a company called Shannon Construction. He was ordered to pay almost $300,000 in penalties and fines, according to a statement from the state attorney general’s office at the time.
Two separate public contracts for emergency sewer projects in Boston were at the heart of that case. Investigators alleged that about 70 workers were paid less than the prevailing wage and that the company failed to pay workers overtime they had earned. Failing to provide accurate payroll records allowed the company to avoid paying more in worker’s compensation premiums, authorities said.
In 2012, a Middlesex Superior Court judge ordered Moloney to pay more than $102,000 in a lawsuit brought by Mark Birchem, court records show. In another lawsuit filed the same year, Moloney was ordered to pay more than $1 million in damages and attorney’s fees after a complaint was filed against him by Ledle Inc. The Globe could not determine Thursday why the lawsuits were filed.
In a brief telephone conversation with the Globe Thursday, Moloney said he could not talk.
“I am actually on the phone with Boston police right now,” he said. “I have no comment.”
Atlantic Coast Utilities also has been the target of lawsuits. In 2019, Boston Gas Co. alleged that the company had “negligently dug into and damaged” one of its underground natural gas service lines on Douglas Street in Boston. The damage required emergency repairs, Boston Gas wrote in its complaint. A judge ordered Atlantic Coast Utilities to pay $2,500 and the company complied, court records show.
Also in 2019, Commerce Insurance Co. sued Atlantic Coast Utilities over a car crash in Dorchester, court records show. The insurance company alleged that on Dec. 13, 2018, a driver for Atlantic Coast Utilities struck a parked vehicle belonging to one of its customers, totaling it. The complaint sought to recover more than $7,100. The insurance company dismissed the case last September.
Atlantic Coast Utilities has a fleet of 13 trucks and five drivers, according to federal records. Since April 2019, regulators have conducted 17 safety inspections, resulting in officials placing the company’s vehicles and drivers out of service at higher rates than the national average, records show.
The company’s vehicles were ordered off the road 27 percent of the time, compared with a national average of 21 percent. Its drivers were placed out of service 12 percent of the time, more than double the national average of just over 5 percent.
In December, a driver operating an Atlantic Coast Utilities truck was cited in Massachusetts for not being properly licensed, not having a medical certificate in possession, and operating a commercial motor vehicle “without proof of periodic inspection.” The company also has been cited twice for driving trucks with inoperable head or tail lights and once for transporting unsecured cargo, records show.
No crashes or “acute-critical” violations by the company have been reported to the federal government, records show.
Separately, the state’s Department of Public Utilities issued orders against Atlantic Coast Utilities in 2018 and 2019 on the grounds that the company violated the state’s dig safe law, which is designed to protect the public from excavation accidents.
In one violation related to excavation work in Quincy, the DPU found the company failed to notify Dig Safe Inc. in advance about plans to dig up the street. Dig Safe is a nonprofit clearinghouse that notifies utility companies about excavation plans so they can mark any underground infrastructure.
Atlantic Coast Utilities also has been cited multiple times in recent years for violating workplace safety standards. In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company nearly $35,000 for one “willful” and two “serious” violations. A spokesman for the federal agency said the company did not pay the penalties and the case was referred to the Treasury Department for debt collection.
A 2020 inspection found no violations and no citations against Atlantic Coast Utilities, according to OSHA.
On Thursday, an OSHA inspector arrived at the construction site on High Street looking for a company representative. He left when none was there.
Anthony Mound, owner of Quincy-based Trust 1 Services, a plumbing, heating, and cooling company that was not involved in the fatal incident, said being aware of the construction hole’s location should be among the highest safety priorities at a job site. Mound recalled his father, who also did sewer repair work, breaking his leg years ago when he slipped into a hole that was about 6 feet deep.
“We used to put cones and caution tape around the hole so you’re very aware of it,” he said.
On High Street on Thursday, mourners had left candles and condolences near the work site, now covered with a rectangle of fresh pavement.
“I love you brother,” one mourner wrote. “Until we meet again.”
Bianca Vázquez Toness and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Charlie McKenna contributed to this report.