ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY NEWS RELEASE
Case # 17HF0480
Date: May 11, 2017
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – A company and three of its supervisors were arraigned on May 9, 2017, for violating scaffolding laws near high voltage power lines that killed one employee and injured another at Mission Viejo High School.
- Five Star Plastering, Inc
- John Lawrence Alberts, 57, Apple Valley
- Thomas Aaron Blythe, 46, Rancho Santa Margarita
- Timothy Scott Gordon, 52, Lake Elsinore
Charged on April 7, 2017, with one felony count each of:
- Willful violation causing death
- Willful violation causing injury
- Alberts, Blythe and Gordon – Three years in state prison and up to $250,000 in fines per defendant
- Five Star Plastering, Inc. – $1.5 million fine
Pre-trial hearing: July 25, 2017, 8:30 a.m. at Department H-7, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach
Circumstances of the Case
At the time of the crime, Blythe was the president and owner of Five Star Plastering, Inc. (Five Star), and the vice president of the Mission Viejo High School (MVHS) booster club. Alberts was the crew supervisor, and Gordon was the company’s safety coordinator.
In July 2014, 23-year-olds Daniel Pohl and John Doe were working for Five Star to erect scaffolding on a football field at MVHS that would eventually display a banner supporting the school’s football team.
Pohl and John Doe were untrained employees with less than three weeks of experience when they were assigned the job.
Blythe is accused of ordering the job be done and being on site when it was started.
Gordon is accused of failing to inspect the job site for safety hazards prior to or during the scaffolding process.
Alberts is accused of being the foreman at the MVHS site and improperly checking the clearance between the scaffolding and high-voltage power lines, which is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to be six feet at minimum.
During construction on July 17, 2014, Pohl came in contact with power lines that were approximately two feet above the scaffolding and was instantly killed by high voltage electrocution.
John Doe came to Pohl’s aid and sustained serious and permanent injuries from the same power line.
Emergency responders pronounced Pohl dead at the scene and took John Doe to a local hospital.
The defendants were subsequently fined $164,000 by Cal/OSHA, and all are accused of willfully violating Cal/OSHA provisions for preventing accidents due to proximity to overhead lines.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) investigated this case.
Prosecutor: Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby, Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit
TONY RACKAUCKAS, District Attorney
Susan Kang Schroeder, Chief of Staff