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The Gene Hobbs Tragedy: This is what the feds said

Editorial by Chad Hobbs

 Up until this point, this series has focused on what happened that day back in 2016 when Gene Hobbs lost his life at work, and the initial reports that were generated from the ordeal: Morley’s official report, the eye witness testimony, the autopsy, etc. The plan was to offer the Judge/Executive the opportunity to sit down and discuss that day from his point of view two weeks ago. His input was already included in the official report that had been at the center of this series up until that point, but I offered him the opportunity to publicize his side, if it was somehow different or Morley’s report failed to mention something he felt was important, before I went into the next part of the story. The Judge responded, “I respectfully decline to comment on this issue at this time. It doesn’t matter what I say at this point, it’s way too late after your fifth article already in print for my side of “your” story.”  This isn’t my story. This isn’t a story of hearsay or he said/ she said, incorrect statements and stuff as the Judge tried to make it appear to be at the March Fiscal Court meeting. This series has revolved completely around a series of conflicting reports, firsthand accounts, and a sworn statement by an eye witness up to this point. Morley clearly stated in those reports that the Judge was a part of the whole process and was spoken to on multiple occasions. It seemed only fair that the family was allowed to give their interview first in this investigation. Unfortunately, it appears Lynn thinks he should have been first once again.  I have kept my opinion out of this series but in this article, Federal OSHA will share their opinion of what it thought about Meade County and state inspector Morley when they responded to one of the CASPA complaints filed by Lisa Hobbs. CASPA is a Complaint About State Program Investigation. William Cochran, the area director of the Nashville Area Office of Federal OSHA, came to Meade County and investigated the complaint. What follows are the findings of that investigation according to Cochran’s report.  The first allegation was “KYOSH did not perform a complete and thorough investigation.” The findings stated that the investigation failed by leaving several unanswered questions such as whether the backup alarm could be heard, did Meade County take appropriate steps to protect their employees from struck-by hazards in a work zone, and whether there was a flagger to communicate with the driver and signal when clear to back up. Also it was found that, “KYOSH did not interview the eye witness who observed and heard the complete incident and had valuable information, which would likely have changed the outcome of this investigation.”  It was determined that sufficient interviews with witnesses were not conducted, nor were all known witnesses interviewed. Morley interviewed a worker who stated that “red P/U driver said he saw the accident.” Despite it being documented several times in the investigative file and the police report that there was a witness, it was determined that there was no indication that the KYOSH investigator made any attempt to contact and interview him. “As part of this OSHA CASPA investigation, a signed statement was obtained from the eye witness, Mr. James Turner. He stated that he has a CDL and was a retired truck driver. According to Mr. Turner, he has driven trucks, including dump trucks, for 30 years. Mr. Turner confirmed in his statement that he was never contacted or questioned by State OSHA. Mr. Turner indicated that they were doing road work and he was sitting in his pick-up truck waiting for them to waive him around. Mr. Turner stated that “While he was sitting there, the dump truck pulled up past the paver and immediately started backing at a rapid pace. He appeared to be in a hurry. Mr. Hobbs was standing on the far side raking on the edge of the road approximately 20 feet from where he was sitting in his truck. As the truck backed up, it was moving so fast it knocked him forcibly face down to the ground and ran over him. The truck then pulled forward and ran over him a second time. The truck driver never saw your husband/father until he ran over him a second time. Mr. Hobbs was wearing coveralls over a jacket with a hood. He was not wearing any type of orange or yellow vest. There was no spotter present and the driver never got out of the truck to see if anyone was present. The truck did not have an audible back-up alarm. I was 20 feet away and there was no alarm, I would have heard the alarm. There wasn’t much noise, they were on break, and no equipment was running other than the dump truck. If they would have had a spotter, this would have never happened. The crew was on break up the road and could not see what happened.”  The federal investigation goes on to find that management officials were not properly interviewed, the back-up alarm was not properly tested, employees and the witness were not interviewed to corroborate the state troopers statement that the back-up alarm was not audible, that KYOSH should have obtained and used all available evidence to determine the facts before it developed conclusions and findings, and points out at least three or more possible violations that Meade County could possibly have been cited for if a proper investigation had taken place. It gives eleven recommendations that KYOSH needed to address regarding failures and deficiencies that became evident in reviewing this case.  This is not hearsay. This is not incorrect facts. This isn’t he said, she said. This is the damning report made by Federal OSHA Area Director William Cochran. It was his experience and training that led him to give the opinion that KYOSH investigator Anthony Morley performed an incompetent investigation, and that the county did not protect Gene Hobbs’ life, as he points out several violations that should have been cited had a proper investigation been carried out.  Ron Hayes, with the F.I.G.H.T. project, says Cochran’s original report was much more damning than this final version which was released on May 22, 2018. Cochran’s report first had to go to Kurt Petermeyer, the Regional Administrator for Federal OSHA, and by the time they got done with the report, it had been tamed down considerably from Cochran’s true findings because Hayes says they wanted to protect KYOSH as much as they could.  As it is, the report still points out huge issues even in its tamer form. Failure is its theme.