Man to stand trial for pipeline deaths

The case against a Sacramento man accused of involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of two men working on the Nacimiento Water Project pipeline has sufficient evidence to proceed to trial, a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge ruled this week.

Henry Duggins, 52, is accused of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and two counts of violating occupational safety codes in the fatalities of Jacob Gaines, 24, of Bakersfield and Manuel Villagomez, 38, of Elk Grove.

Duggins appeared before Judge Michael Duffy this week for a preliminary hearing.

He’s accused of making the decision that caused the rupture of a waterline after a worker operating an excavator hit the pipe at the intersection of South River and Niblick roads in Paso Robles on Oct. 2, 2008.

The men drowned after water surged into a trench where they were working.

Duffy found that sufficient evidence existed for the case to move to trial, the standard used to continue with proceedings after a preliminary hearing. The hearing lasted six days and finished Thursday.

State investigators say Duggins ignored verbal warnings that a waterline was in the same area where crews were digging a trench.

Duggins later told officials that he may have looked at a site map upside down, not seeing the marking for the 8-inch waterline, or that he may have relied on an unmarked map, according to a 2009 investigation report by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Duggins’ former employer, Sacramento-based Teichert Construction, agreed to pay $3 million in penalties and adopt new safety procedures in a settlement with the county in February.

Criminal charges weren’t filed against Teichert, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

A further arraignment hearing is scheduled for Jan. 20 before Duffy.