Federal prosecutors are looking at the possibility of criminal charges in connection with last December's Copper Lounge collapse.
Documents obtained by KSFY show the U-S Attorney's Office in Sioux Falls is looking into whether the construction company behind the Copper Lounge renovation project should be criminally liable for the death of construction worker Ethan McMahon.
The December 2nd, 2016 collapse happened while the Copper Lounge building was in the process of being remodeled.
Construction worker Ethan McMahon died after a load bearing wall was in the process of being removed..triggering the collapse.
In April, OSHA assessed $200,000 in fines to Hultgren Construction and found the company violated 23 OSHA policies...and that two of them were willful violations...meaning the company intentionally ignored OSHA rules.
Attorney Scott Swier tells us, those willful violations are serious. "When you're looking at a potential willful or intentional conduct that's when it shifts from being kind of a garden variety negligence case which would normally not be prosecuted into willful ot intential acts where prosecution would definitely be on the table."
Two years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration joined forces with the U-S Department of Justice in taking a closer look at construction site accidents which results in a death.
Before that time, Swier says, construction site accidents leading to death were treated as misdemeanors.
But over the last two years, both agencies have been dilligent in taking a second look at consturction site deaths; what caused them and who is ultimately responsible for them. "Proseuctions are being looked at much more closely and the penalties potentially go from a mismemeanor offense to felony offenses depending on how the case was charged."
It is important to note that Hultgren Construction is in the process of appealing the OSHA's finding that led to the April fine.
We contacted Hultgren Construction today to see if the company wanted to comment on this criminal investigation. They declined.