An engineering firm has racked up six-figure fines and safety violations stemming from the 2021 death of a diver who was inspecting an Allegan County dam.

It has been a year since Brian Trahey drowned after authorities say he was swept away in turbulent waters near the dam on the Kalamazoo River.

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State officials say the fine is believed to be the largest connected to a commercial diving incident in the state’s history.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) says the penalty is designed to have a deterrent effect against the Great Lakes Engineering Group company.

A commercial diving expert says there are many reasons why this incident could have been avoided.

State investigators say Brian Trahey was scuba diving without being tethered by a line when he was swept away in rough waters.

Officials say this and other diving safety guidelines were willfully ignored when Trahey drowned during the July 2021 underwater inspection of the Calkins Bridge Dam.

“This was something completely avoidable,” said Phillip Newsum, Leader of the Association of Diving Contractors International.

MIOSHA hit Great Lakes Engineering Group with a $119,000 fine.

Among the nine violations, allegations include that the engineering firm didn’t properly assess dive conditions and failed to maintain communication with Trahey while he inspected the hydroelectric dam.

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“When you perform work of this nature, it should be done with surface-applied supplied equipment-divers should be helmeted, tethered,” said Newsum

The MIOSHA report shows divers were swept away from currents in other instances when they weren’t tethered together.

“Based on the report, this has been a systematic problem, which makes it a lot easier to understand why the penalty is the amount that it is,” said Newsum.

Brian Trahey is the late husband of Great Lakes Engineering Group President Amy Trahey.

A company executive declined to comment on the violations, but noted the company is primarily known for inspecting bridges.

“The welfare of the safety of the dive team falls upon the supervisor and diving contractor— they’re the trained professionals,” said Newsum.

Investigators say a team of five company employees were on site for the inspection.

They noted the standby diver that day was not prepared or equipped to act as a diver.

After Trahey’s death, the company said he was an experienced diver, completing over 1,000 dives on Michigan bridges and dams.

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