Excerpts from Madison.com:

Two utility contractors faulted for contributing to an explosion that leveled part of downtown Sun Prairie and killed a volunteer firefighter in July were each fined $12,934, the maximum penalty allowed for serious violations by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

In citation letters dated Jan. 4, OSHA said its inspectors found that Kansas-based Bear Communications and Michigan-based VC Tech failed to call a diggers hotline or utility owners to locate underground lines before starting work.

VC Tech, which was subcontracted by Bear Communications, punctured an unmarked underground gas line at about 6:20 p.m. on July 10 while boring a hole under Bristol Street and Main Street in Sun Prairie as part of a fiber communication line project for Verizon. The damaged gas line led to the explosion about 45 minutes after it was punctured, destroying five buildings, damaging several others and displacing dozens of residents.

Cory Barr, a captain with the Sun Prairie Volunteer Fire Department and owner of a tavern destroyed in the blast, was killed in the explosion. Two other volunteer firefighters were injured.

Bear Communications then contracted with VC Tech, mistakenly telling the company that the utility marking had been completed. VC Tech then punctured the gas line while doing horizontal-directional boring.

In addition to the OSHA findings, state regulators have been asked to consider issuing penalties to VC Tech. A panel that polices utility notification laws asked for the penalties after receiving a complaint from USIC Locating Services that claimed VC Tech violated state law when it failed to notify the state utility call center before starting work on July 10. Under state law, the Public Service Commission can issue fines of $25,000 per violation and up to $500,000 in fines for multiple violations.

USIC’s complaint, filed in October, alleged that VC Tech illegally piggybacked on the other company’s work order and failed to notify the call center before starting its work.