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Suns fined $3,500 in connection with Smithsburg teen's death

MOSH inspectors also fined team $5,600 for other violations found at Municipal Stadium

July 03, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Suns have been fined $3,500 in connection with the death of an 18-year-old Smithsburg man who fell off a vehicle and struck his head at Municipal Stadium in April, according to documents released Tuesday by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

In addition, the Suns were fined $5,600 for other violations that inspectors found at the stadium as they investigated the death of Mitchell Akers.

Ten of the 20 violations issued were deemed serious.

Akers, 18, of 109 Rachels Court in Smithsburg hit his head after he fell off the back of a John Deere Gator that he and two other Suns employees were using to pick up trash from the stadium parking lot on April 10. Akers died the next day.

Keith Owens, assistant chief of Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, a division of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said MOSH launched its investigation the day after the accident and finished six weeks later.

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He said the fine that was issued as a result of Akers’ death could have been as high as $7,000, but it was “pared down” because the Suns had no previous accident history.

“The penalties that were issued were calculated according to law,” Owens said.

He said the Suns management, which is listed as 274 East Memorial, LLC, in the report, has 15 working days from the time the citations were received to contest the fines.

“I have no idea what they will do,” said Owens, noting the fines were issued June 21. “They do have the right to contest.”

A message seeking comment that was left with a Suns employee on Tuesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

In its report of the accident, the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation listed the violation that caused Akers’ death as “serious.”

The report said the employer failed to furnish a place of employment that was free from hazards that might cause death or serious physical harm.

“An employee was exposed to the hazards of being thrown from a moving utility vehicle while riding in the cargo box and was not trained in accordance with the operations manual which states that extra riders can fall off and be seriously injured and killed,” the report said.

As a remedy, the report suggested that operators follow the John Deere operator’s manual, specifically a portion that reads: “Seating is provided for the operator and one passenger. Do not allow riders in the cargo box or on the tailgate. Extra riders can fall off and be seriously injured and killed.”

At the time of the accident, Akers, a senior at Smithsburg High School, was working as a seasonal employee for the Suns.

An investigation determined that Akers was riding on top of garbage bags in the back of the Gator when the driver rounded a left-hand turn in the parking lot, according to a Hagerstown Police Department report that was released the week of the accident. Police said another person was riding in the front seat of the vehicle.

Akers was taken by ambulance to Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown with what police said at the time was a fractured skull.

Akers’ obituary said he died at Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center.

List of MOSH citations

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