Investigation of subcontractor in Sun Prairie explosion begins

Local News

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WFRV) — More information surrounding the deadly explosion in Sun Prairie last July is surfacing after the subcontractor spoke in front of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission Friday.

Local 5’s sister station, News 3 Now, says the subcontractor, VC Tech, was hired by Bear Communications, the contractor, to install a fiber optics line for Verizon Wireless in downtown Sun Prairie last July. 

Bear Communications reportedly hired a different company, Jet Underground, to do the work. VC Tech was to finish the project.

USIC Locating Service, the company contracted to mark the job site, filed a complaint against VC Tech with the state’s Public Service Commission, alleging that the company violated Wisconsin state law when it failed to contact Diggers Hotline before beginning work.

“When we were doing the ticket search over a couple-day period, we had learned that VC Tech did not have a ticket in the area,” said Brian Dreesen, USIC’s director of operations for Wisconsin and Iowa.

The owner of VC Tech, Valentin Cociuba, said during the hearing that when his workers started to smell gas where they were working, he stopped and called 911, according to News 3 Now.

John Coleman, Cociuba’s lawyer, told News 3 Now “the claims against VC Tech were ‘false’ and ‘inappropriate.'”

Jet Underground did file a project ticket on June 7, 2018, with Diggers Hotline, according to documents, in order to work in downtown Sun Prairie. 

News 3 says the lawyer for USIC argued the ticket would have expired after 10 business days under Wisconsin state law and would only have been valid for Jet Underground workers, not VC Tech. 

During the public hearing, Cociuba testified that he believed he was working in Sun Prairie under a valid project ticket. He said representatives from Bear Communications told him he was OK to dig.

Documents show a project engineer from Bear Communications sent him an email the morning of July 10, 2018, (the day of the explosion) saying, “It is already located,” referring to the job site.

In the email, the project engineer also asked Cociuba to complete the job before July 14.

Cociuba testified in the hearing that he was told to get the job done quickly.

News 3 goes on to say Jet Underground requested USIC mark the gas line.

Court documents allege the locating service incorrectly marked it.

But USIC’s lawyer, Traci Martinez, said the purpose of the public hearing was not to point blame at USIC.

“It’s solely about whether VC Tech had a ticket,” she said.

A decision is expected from the public service commission by the end of the summer.

For more on this story, click here

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