This column originally appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.
By all accounts, Raul Zapata was a hardworking father and a loving uncle who took in his young nephews who needed a parental figure. To his family, his tragic death is an incomprehensible loss. To the company he worked for, U.S.-Sino Investment of Fremont, this tragedy is a hard lesson in corporate responsibility.
When a wall of mud came crashing down on Zapata as he worked on the construction of a home in the Milpitas hills, neither he nor his co-workers knew they weren't supposed to be there. An order by the city of Milpitas had been issued just days before, demanding the construction company stop work until potentially deadly conditions could be inspected for safety. Apparently, that order was ignored and now the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined the developer did not have the proper permit to dig a trench that size. Another investigation should come from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office for possible criminal charges.