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Epoxy supplier indicted in Big Dig death


BOSTON--A company that supplied epoxy for suspended ceiling panels in a section of Boston's Big Dig tunnel project where a motorist was killed last year has been indicted for involuntary manslaughter.

A Suffolk County, Mass., grand jury Wednesday returned a single involuntary manslaughter charge against Powers Fasteners Inc. of Brewster, N.Y. The Massachusetts Attorney General's office charges that Powers failed to warn project managers that a fast-set epoxy used to suspend concrete ceiling panels in the Central Artery Tunnel project was not suitable for holding sustained loads.

In a report last month, the National Transportation Safety Board cited epoxy "creep"--a gradual pulling away of epoxy-coated ceiling anchors--as a probable cause of the July 2006 ceiling collapse.

Privately owned Powers Fasteners flatly denied the charges.

The company supplied Big Dig contractors with standard-set rather than fast-set epoxy and did not know the fast-set product was being used, Powers said in a statement. Standard-set epoxy has better "creep resistance" and is more suitable for holding sustained loads.

In 1999, project managers also refused to allow a Powers engineer to examine whether the ceiling bolts were slipping, Powers said in the statement. Subsequent tests showed that the bolts had been installed improperly, with inadequate amounts of epoxy applied to them, the company's statement said.

"The only reason that our company has been indicted is that, unlike others implicated in this tragedy, we don't have enough money to buy our way out," Jeffrey Powers, the company's president, said.

Powers Fasteners also said Thursday that it would seek to disqualify Attorney General Martha Coakley from the case on grounds of conflict of interest and ask for the appointment an independent prosecutor. The Attorney General's office has brought civil litigation to recover costs from various Big Dig contractors, including Powers, and its simultaneous criminal prosecution of the company represents a conflict, Powers said in a statement.

Milena Del Valle, a Boston-area resident, was killed and her husband was injured when a suspended concrete ceiling panel in Boston's Interstate 90 Connector tunnel dropped onto their car.

Powers Fasteners is the only company involved in the project that has so far been indicted.