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Electrician Gets Five-Year Sentence for Fatal Fire Caused By Faulty Work

August 11, 1990

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ An electrician whose faulty work caused a house fire in which a 12-year-old boy died was sentenced to five years in prison.

National trade groups said the case marked the first time an electrician was found criminally liable for work that caused a fatal fire. The judge also called it a unique case.

Richard E. Salz, 49, was convicted in June of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Burton Gorman III, who died of smoke inhalation in a 1988 house fire in the neighboring town of East Haven.

In passing sentence Friday, Superior Court Judge Joseph T. Gormley Jr. said he found disturbing Salz’s unwillingness to accept any blame for the fire. He also ordered Salz to serve five years’ probation after his prison term.

Defense attorney James Ullman said that, at most, Salz was guilty of sloppy workmanship. He said the verdict would be appealed.

Investigators said Salz’s faulty installation of a heating unit in the basement of the home of Burton H. and Louise Gorman, the victim’s grandparents, caused the fire. Prosecutor Michael Dearington said Salz did not simply make a mistake but was guilty of ″flagrant, reprehensible, egregious work.″

The fire was linked to a baseboard heating unit Salz had installed in the basement.

Salz connected the 120-volt heating unit to a 240-volt circuit box, causing it to overheat and the wall paneling to ignite. He also failed to attach a nut that would have tripped the circuit breaker when the heater short-circuited, prosecutors said.

Salz committed numerous other electrical code violations, ignored the manufacturers’s instructions for installing the heater and failed to get a permit for the job, they said.

Despite the criminal charge against him, the state Electrical Work Examining Board this spring gave Salz a journeyman’s electrician’s license, which requires that his work be supervised. His contractor’s license, which allows an electrician to work without supervision, was revoked in July 1989.

Ullman said Salz has been unable to get a job as an electrician but has been working as a plumber.

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