Investigators seek contractor after man buried alive

February 1, 2012 7:38:29 PM PST
Investigators want to talk to a general contractor who is out of the country, while a criminal investigation is under way at his Milpitas construction site. A worker was buried alive this past weekend. It was a tragic accident that could have been avoided.

Because of the myriad of investigations involved, the safety issues involved, and also the corrections that would have to be improved and then made, construction on the 5,800-square foot home could be on hold for months.

Police and others have a long list of questions for Richard Liu. His company, U.S. Sino Investment Inc., is the general contractor on the Milpitas job site where a worker was killed Saturday. Police say Liu was in China at the time and they have not been able to interview him, yet.

"We have tried to speak to him and will try to talk to him some more. He's out of the country," said Milpitas Police Sgt. Raj Maharaj.

City building inspectors issued a stop work order on Wednesday because of dangerous conditions, but that order was ignored. Three days later the earth caved in and Raul Zapata was buried alive. The Milpitas chief building inspector Keyvan Irannejad says Liu almost stalled the recovery of Zapata's body.

"I talked with him very briefly on the phone and he didn't want to authorize us to proceed because he wanted to see the contract and all of that. Within a minute, that was all of my discussion with him," said Irannejad.

The city moved forward with its recovery plan anyway. Not only does Liu face possible criminal charges, but his general contractor's license could be revoked. State records indicate his company did not have worker's compensation insurance.

"Administratively, if we take administrative action against your license, you could be fined, you could be suspected, up to revocation for not following state contracting laws," said Venus Stromberg from CSLB Public Affairs.

U.S. Sino Investment has successfully completed a number of million dollar projects in Fremont including one on the market for $1.2 million. The industry is now paying attention to Liu's work for a different reason.

"These are the types of jobs that these accidents teach other contractors how not to behave," said Michael Miller from the Builders' Exchange of Santa Clara County.

No one is forgetting that a husband and father of three has lost his life.

"We are all shocked and we feel so sad about this worker," said Irannejad.


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