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Winter’s Architectural Roofing Manager Charged With Obstructing OSHA Investigation Of Employee Death

April 2, 2008

Rock Island, Ill. – A department manager employed by Winter’s Architectural Roofing Company was charged today in a criminal complaint with obstructing the investigation of the death of a Winter’s employee in Rock Island in October 2007. Stephen Vyncke, 49, of the 1100 block of North Shore Drive, Moline, Illinois, has been charged with three counts of obstructing pending proceedings and one count of making false statements, as announced by Rodger A. Heaton, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was conducting an investigation after an employee of Winter’s Architectural Roofing Company fell through a skylight and died on October 10, 2007. The skylight was on the roof of a building at 513 31st Avenue, Rock Island, Illinois.

An OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer arrived at the scene of the accident on October 10, 2007, and inspected the inside and roof of the building. The officer observed warning lines erected along the edge of portions of the roof. The affidavit alleges that Vyncke altered the work site by erecting safety fall protection on the roof of the building on October 10, 2007, after the death of the employee. Shortly after learning of the death of the employee, the affidavit alleges Vyncke loaded fall protection equipment, including warning lines, into a truck and drove to the site. Vyncke allegedly placed the equipment between two dumpsters and after the employee’s body was removed but before OSHA officers arrived, climbed to the roof, and with two other Winter’s employees, erected warning lines along the edge of the roof.

On October 10, 2007, the affidavit alleges Vyncke instructed a witness whom he knew was to be interviewed by OSHA not to tell anyone about the lack of safety fall protection and safety equipment at the building. Further, the affidavit alleges that when Vyncke was interviewed by an OSHA compliance officer on October 16, 2007, he falsely represented that safety fall protection was in place on the roof of the building and had been for several days prior, when in fact, no safety fall protection was in place until after the employee’s death.

Vyncke has been issued a summons for initial appearance in federal court in Rock Island on April 14, 2008, at 11:30 a.m.

If convicted, each of the charged offenses carries a statutory maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and fines.

The charge is the result of an investigation by U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara L. Darrow.

Members of the public are reminded that a complaint is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Additionally, OSHA has issued eight citations for alleged safety and health violations to Winter’s Architectural Roofing Company, based in Carbon Cliff, Illinois. Proposed penalties total $224,000.

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