Feds reviewing Las Vegas probe of 2 workers' deaths at casino

LAS VEGAS " Federal occupational safety and health officials are reviewing how Nevada state safety investigators handled the probe of the deaths of two maintenance workers last year at a Las Vegas hotel-casino.

Richard Terrill, acting regional OSHA administrator, told a Las Vegas newspaper that the federal agency is looking into a complaint filed by the mother of one of the men who died in the February 2007 sewer mishap at The Orleans.

Terrill said federal investigators are looking at state administration of OSHA rules, not whether the casino complied with safety regulations.

Debi Koehler-Fergen pressed for the federal review after state officials last August fined The Orleans owner Boyd Gaming Corp. $185,000 for nine safety violations.

Koehler-Fergen said the company and supervisors should have faced criminal charges for "willful" violations of safety rules.

Boyd Gaming spokesman Rob Stillwell told the Review-Journal the company was upset it was being forced to relive the tragedy of the mishap. He said the Nevada agency's findings were reported earlier.

Travis Koehler, 26, a journeyman engineer, jumped into the a sewer pit after Richard Luzier, 48, was overcome by fumes and fell face-first into wastewater, authorities said.

A third man, David Snow, 30, was rescued by Clark County firefighters after he entered the pit to try to rescue Koehler and Luzier.

Koehler-Fergen said Nevada OSHA imposes small fines on casino companies and large construction companies that have job site fatalities, giving corporations little incentive to comply with safety rules.

State OSHA spokeswoman Elisabeth Shurtleff said the agency cannot comment on open investigations.

Nevada is among 26 states that adopted state worker safety regulations and received federal approval for standards that were at least as stringent as the federal government's, Terrill said.

Terrill expects the San Francisco regional OSHA office to complete its review within a few weeks. He declined to discuss other potential action.


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