Two arrested following deadly trench collapse at construction site in Vernon

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 11:09 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 6:03 PM EST

VERNON, CT (WFSB) - Two men were arrested in connection with a deadly trench collapse that happened over the summer in Vernon.

Dennis Botticello, 67, of Suffield, and 65-year-old Glen Locke of Somers were taken into custody on Friday.

Dennis Slater, 56, of East Windsor, was killed while working on a construction site on July 22, 2022, Vernon police said.

Emergency crews were called to a trench collapse at a housing development just off Bolton Branch Road. Arrest warrants identified the property as Laurelwoods Farms.

Slater worked for Botticello Inc. at the time. He was laying pipe in an 8-foot trench when dirt collapsed in on him, police said.

Emergency personnel worked to free Slater. However, he died of his injuries at Manchester Memorial Hospital.

Police said Dennis Botticello is the owner of the Manchester-based Botticello Inc., which was subcontracted for the job by J.A. Jacques Construction LLC.

They also said Locke was the equipment operator who worked in close proximity to Slater at the time of the collapse.

According to the arrest warrants, Locke told investigators that they “play the odds” when it comes to utilizing trench boxes to maintain trench walls. Locke revealed that the same trench had collapsed twice in different areas within minutes of each other earlier that day. Still, they believed the trench walls appeared stable, so they didn’t use a trench box.

The documents said a 25-foot section of wall fell on top of Slater. There was so much dirt on top of him, that Botticello employees couldn’t free him with shovels alone. They used their backhoe.

Botticello and Locke were each charged with first-degree manslaughter and first-degree reckless endangerment. Both men were held in lieu of a $50,000 court-set bond and were scheduled to appear in Rockville Superior Court on March 6, 2023.

“Public safety is our number one priority for people who live in Vernon and who visit our community, including those who come here to work,” said Vernon police Chief John Kelley. “We have outstanding officers and detectives who continue to investigate this incident with our state and federal partners.”

“An important part of the mission of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General is to investigate allegations of criminal conduct related to employers who willfully violate worker safety laws,” said Jonathan Mellone, special agent-in-charge, Northeast Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold those who jeopardize workers’ safety accountable.”

Vernon police said the case remained under investigation. Anyone with information was asked to contact the Vernon Police Department at 860-872-9126.