OSHA investigator: Owner said Colebrook gunpowder plant was preparing for upgrades
LANCASTER — After an explosion killed two workers at his Colebrook gunpowder manufacturing plant on May 14, 2010, plant owner Craig Sanborn told a federal investigator that he planned to implement a proper health and safety plan for workers, and outfit his building and employees with industry-recommended safety equipment, but hadn’t done it yet.
Stephen Rook, a Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigator, testified in Coos County Superior Court on Wednesday that Sanborn told him he intended to take the measures once his downtown plant was fully up and running.
Prosecutors say Sanborn, charged with manslaughter and negligent homicide, had several workers producing the explosive black powder without most of the recommended safeguards when a major blast killed two employees. The initial blast was followed by smaller explosions and a large fire, all centered in the production room.
When it was safe to enter the building that day, investigators discovered the bodies of Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook, and Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford.
The various safety precautions and equipment, including worker training, “had not yet been provided” when the workplace was destroyed, Rook testified.
Rook said Sanborn told him that his Black Mag plant had not been operating long enough to deliver its first order to a customer, which was due to have been shipped the week after explosions.
In his opening remarks to the jury at the start of the trial, Coos County Attorney John McCormick said Sanborn in 2010 had sufficient money on hand to pay for safety equipment, including the recommended sandbag bunkers around machines and devices that would allow workers to start and stop the machines from a distance by remote control.
McCormick said Sanborn had received a $300,000 deposit from a customer, and Rook testified that he had seen company financial records that showed that deposit.
The trial, which could run four weeks, is scheduled to resume Tuesday.