The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating the possible wrongful death of a 24-year-old man who was killed while feeding a black bear at an exotic animal farm. On August 19, Brent Kandra was mauled by the bear at a compound owned by Sam Mazzola and known as Wildlife Adventures of Ohio. He was transported by helicopter to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland but was later pronounced dead.
At issue in the investigation is whether certain health and safety regulations were violated. If regulations were not observed, Mazzola could face numerous federal citations and penalties. In addition to OSHAs concerns, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is also looking into the incident to discover if Mazzola violated state law in failing to carry BWC coverage.
In Ohio, any employer with more than one employee must have BWC coverage. It is reported that Mazzola let his coverage lapse in 2005 and listed his company as a sole proprietorship with himself as the only employee. If that were the case, then he would not be required to have BWC coverage. However, if it turns out he was paying Kandra for his services, that would be a violation of state law, which may lead to criminal charges.
According to one of Kandra’s relatives, Brent Kandra had worked for Mazzola on part-time or full-time basis for approximately the last six years. If that turns out to be true, a BWC spokesperson says Mazzola’s failure to carry coverage could be construed as workers’ compensation fraud.
A workers’ compensation claim could still be made on behalf of Kandra’s family to help cover medical and funeral expenses, but no official claim has been made as of yet. According to the BWC spokesperson, the BWC would most likely pay that claim if received and then seek to recover the money from Mazzola if it turns out he did not have the coverage required by law.
Mazzola facility targeted by OSHA probe (The Chronicle Telegram)