Company Officials Charged in Electrocution

The Orange County District Attorney has filed criminal charges against the safety coordinator and two other principals of Five Star Plastering, based in Laguna Hills. Its employee was involved in a 2014 electrocution. The employer itself also faces charges.

A two-man crew was erecting a banner at the Mission Viejo High School stadium to support the football team. Daniel Pohl, 23, climbed onto the scaffolding to attach the banner, but while standing on it, he was a mere two feet from overhead electrical lines and was killed instantly by high voltage from a 12,000-volt line. His coworker, Joshua Shetley, also 23, climbed to assist Pohl and also was jolted. Shetley was thrown from the 20-foot high scaffold but survived. He spent two weeks in the hospital with serious injuries. According to Cal/OSHA regulations, the minimum approach distance to the line should have been six feet.

Both men were untrained, according to the Orange County District Attorney.

Those charged include Timothy Scott Gordon, 52, of Lake Elsinore, the safety manager for Five Star; company President Thomas Aaron Blythe, 46, of Rancho Santa Margarita; and crew supervisor John Lawrence Alberts, 57, of Apple Valley. They each face up to three years in prison and $250,000 fines if convicted. Five Star faces fines up to $1.5 million. The charges include willful violations in causing death and injury. The men have just been arraigned.

Blythe was the vice president of the school’s booster club and directed two employees with only three weeks on the job to erect scaffolding and hang the banner on it.

Prosecutors charged Blythe because he ordered the job to be done and was on site when it started. The office charged Gordon for failing to inspect the site for safety hazards before the scaffolding was erected. Alberts is accused of failing to check the clearance between the scaffold and the high-voltage line.

In 2015 Cal/OSHA, in connection with the incident, cited Five Star for six serious violations, including a willful violation, and proposed penalties of almost $165,000. That case in on appeal but is on hold pending the conclusion of the criminal case.

Filed by Kevin Thompson in San Francisco.


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