Legislature calls for probe on 3 workers’ deaths


Lawmakers are calling for an investigation on the tragic deaths of three employees of USA Fanter Ltd. who were working on a Commonwealth Utilities Corp. sewer well. One intimated that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration should join the probe.

The Department of Public Safety believes the deaths were caused by the inhalation of toxic gas inside the sewer well. Because of this, Sen. Teresita Santos (R-Rota) believes OSHA should “step in also.”

“I think a thorough investigation should immediately be conducted, including an autopsy to determine the actual cause of death of the employees,” said Santos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.

Rep. Jose Itibus (R-Saipan), chairman of the House Committee on Health, noted that this was the “first time this has happened” in the Commonwealth and expressed sympathy to the families of the three workers who were killed.

Despite this, Itibus believes that now is not the time to point fingers, but rather to focus on how to “prevent it from happening again in the future.”

“When a contract is made, [the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.] should be putting into the contract that safety issues [should be considered],” he said.

Itibus agrees that if an OSHA investigation is warranted, “I am in support of it.”

Sen. Sixto Igisomar (R-Saipan) referred to the three victims as “good, hardworking people.”

“I salute them for their dedication to their work, because it is in fulfilling their duties (bravely going down that manhole), that they unfortunately fell to their fatal and untimely demise,” said Igisomar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Utilities and Transportation.

“It is with heavy hearts and disconcerted minds that the people of the CNMI extend their deepest condolences over the most unfortunate passing of three valuable construction workers last Friday,” he said.

Both DPS and CUC are investigating the matter. An earlier statement from USA Fanter said that they were willing to work with government authorities that are responsible for investigating the tragedy.

USA Fanter is a subcontractor of CUC and was tasked to perform sewer system rehabilitation work at the Pakpak Beach area in San Antonio where the sewer well is located.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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