Crime - Sacto 911

Why crane operator no longer faces manslaughter charges for accident that killed his son

Involuntary manslaughter charges were dismissed Monday against a crane operator involved in a deadly Winters bridge construction accident that claimed the lives of his own son and a co-worker three years ago.

Mark Powell still faces two felony counts of violating occupational safety or health standards causing death in the May 30, 2014, deaths of his son Marcus Zane Powell and Glenn Allen Hodgson, whose hoisted basket broke free of the crane the elder Powell operated and plunged 80 feet to the ground.

A trial setting conference has been scheduled for May 22 in Yolo Superior Court before Judge David Reed. Attorneys anticipate a trial sometime in the summer.

Mark Powell’s attorney on Tuesday called the decision to dismiss the more serious criminal counts “a significant victory” for Powell, but said the crane operator is tormented by the loss of his son and Hodgson.

“It’s a day-to-day struggle. He deals with that every day,” said Sacramento attorney Patrick Hanly. “It’s taken a very heavy emotional toll. They can’t do anymore to Powell than what he does to himself every day.”

Yolo County District Attorney’s prosecutors argued that Powell was criminally negligent in the deaths. Reed ruled at Powell’s preliminary hearing that enough evidence supported the prosecutors’ claim seeking manslaughter charges, said Yolo County District Attorney’s officials.

But Hanly contested the ruling. An independent review by a second judge, Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall, determined that the act did not meet the standard for involuntary manslaughter.

“It was his son and one of his friends. He would not have lifted them up if he thought it was unsafe,” Hanly said Tuesday.

Mark Powell was one of three people supervising construction at the bridge site for Bay Area outfit Disney Construction early on May 30, 2014. Pile driver Hodgson and the Powells were part of a team repairing a crane used as a drill rig at the site of the new Winters Road Bridge spanning Putah Creek and connecting Yolo and Solano counties.

The younger Powell and Hodgson rode in a crane-hoisted basket with the elder Powell at the controls when the basket broke free and dropped Powell and Hodgson to their deaths, according to Cal-OSHA investigators.

Cal-OSHA investigators determined a wire line the younger Powell and Hodgson were repairing atop the drilling crane became stuck when Mark Powell lowered their basket triggering the fatal chain of events.

Cal-OSHA ultimately levied $106,000 in fines and multiple citations against Burlingame-based Disney Construction in November 2014, connected to the bridge site deaths, citing “serious” violations.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith

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