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OSHA levies $213,000 in fines over deadly crash at Billerica auto auction

The aftermath of the May 3, 2017,  Lynnway Auto Auction crash in Billerica that killed five people.
The aftermath of the May 3, 2017, Lynnway Auto Auction crash in Billerica that killed five people. Associated Press

A Billerica auto auction company and a New Hampshire staffing firm have agreed to pay about $213,000 in federal fines stemming from an incident in which five people were killed when an SUV sped into a crowd during an indoor auction last May.

As part of the settlement released Monday, Lynnway Auto Auction agreed to pay a $200,000 fine imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — a reduction from the original $267,081 fine the company faced. The Dover, N.H., staffing firm TrueBlue Inc., doing business as PeopleReady, agreed to pay $12,675 in penalties.

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Both companies were found to have violated workplace safety standards that put employees at risk of being struck or crushed by moving vehicles on the auction floor.

Under the agreement, Lynnway Auto must designate “safe locations” on the auction floor for the public, as well as add clearly marked walkways, implement speed limits, and install barriers capable of absorbing the impact of a moving vehicle. The company must also conduct a weekly safe driver meeting to determine whether employees are fit to drive vehicles on the floor, and whether they have a valid driver’s license.

PeopleReady must provide employees it assigns to Lynnway Auto with a written copy of auction safety policies, develop a monitoring plan to ensure its employees adhere to the safety rules, and periodically evaluate employees to ensure they are fit to drive a vehicle.

“The processes put into place by this agreement have the goal of ensuring that such needless loss of lives will not occur again,” Michael Felsen, the US Department of Labor’s regional solicitor, said in a statement.

Lynnway Auto president Jim Lamb has previously said that after the May 3 incident — and prior to the federal labor penalties — the company made several safety and operational corrections, including installing safety posts.

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Five people died when a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by a 76-year-old employee with a suspended driver’s license accelerated without warning on the Lynnway Auto auction floor. The vehicle struck several bystanders as it careened across the length of the warehouse before crashing through an exterior cinder block wall.

An open criminal investigation into the incident is being conducted by the Middlesex district attorney’s office, the Billerica Police Department, and the Massachusetts State Police. In addition, Lynnway Auto faces at least two wrongful death lawsuits.


Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.