(Phoenix, AZ) - Terry Goddard, Arizona Attorney General, announced that arraignments are scheduled for Friday, January 24, 2003, of two companies charged with causing the deaths of two sewer workers in Yuma in October 2001. Employees of Far West Water & Sewer, Inc. and Santec Corporation were also indicted by the State Grand Jury for causing the deaths and endangering other workers.
James Gamble and Gary Lanser died in a sewer tank near Mesa Del Sol Golf Course in Yuma on October 24, 2001. Mr. Gamble entered the tank to remove a plug blocking sewage while Connie Charles, a Far West Water and Sewer foreperson, turned on a pump running sewage into the tank through another line. Mr. Gamble inhaled sewage gas and immediately collapsed into the tank. Nathan Garrett, Mr. Lanser, and Ms. Charles entered the tank to attempt rescue. All three were also overcome by the sewage gas. Mr. Lanser died and Mr. Garrett suffered damage to his lungs. Investigation by the Attorney General's Office revealed that air in the tank had not been tested during the day, that workers were not properly trained, and that required safety and rescue procedures were not followed.
The indictment charges Far West Water and Sewer, Inc. and its President, Brent Weidman, with manslaughter for the two deaths, aggravated assault for the injuries to Mr. Garrett, and endangerment of other workers. Ms. Charles was indicted for negligent homicide of the two workers and endangering the work crew. Far West Water and Sewer, Inc. is also charged with knowing violation of safety regulations, thereby causing the death of its employee Mr. Gamble.
Santec Corporation of Castle Rock, Colorado employed Mr. Lanser and had a work crew installing pumps and other equipment in the tank on the day of the fatalities. Santec Corporation, its President, John Clingman, and Vice President, Dwight Zemp, were indicted for endangering their workers. The corporation was also indicted for knowing violation of safety regulations causing the death of Mr. Lanser.
An indictment is a criminal charge only. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.