The tranquility of tiny Colebrook, N.H., was shattered on May 14, 2010, when an explosion at Black Mag LLC rocked buildings blocks away and killed two workers. Owner Craig Sanborn has been convicted by a jury of two counts of negligent homicide and two counts of manslaughter.
Craig Sanborn, the president, managing member and primary owner of the Black Mag gunpowder factory in Colebrook, N.H., has been found guilty of multiple charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide for his role in the deaths of two employees. He faces the possibility of 20 years in prison, and was assessed fines of $10,000 in Coos County Superior Court.
Sanborn was charged with two counts each of manslaughter and reckless homicide in the May 2010 explosion at the plant that killed employees Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook, N.H., and Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford, N.H., while they were manufacturing a gunpowder substitute. The two men only had been working at the facility a month when they died.
The explosion, which injured a third employee (the three men were the only ones in the building), was so strong that it shook buildings blocks away and forced the evacuation of nearby neighbors as plumes of black smoke shot into the air. Firefighters were unable to fight the blaze because ammunition inside the factory was exploding.
In his opening remarks at the start of the trial on Sept. 30, Coos County Prosecutor John McCormick told jurors that Sanborn was motivated by greed and trying to meet the conditions of a contract for which he already had received a $300,000 down payment. As a result, according to McCormick, Sanborn was reckless in manufacturing and storing the black powder and did not provide adequate training for employees or a safe work environment.
McCormick also claimed that Sanborn stored a half a ton of explosive powder on site but did not have a permit to store more than 50 pounds of explosive powder, because the space he rented for the factory was an indoor, occupied building that shared the building with a church.
Sanborn’s attorney, Mark Sisti, had argued that employee error could have been to blame and that Sanborn was in North Carolina when the explosion occurred and therefore had no control over the conditions that caused the explosion.
The jury didn’t buy that argument, taking only three hours to find Sanborn guilty on all counts.
“The disregard for safety cost two workers their lives, and this jury agreed that Craig Sanborn’s actions were criminal,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The Labor Department commends the Coos County Attorney's Office for its successful prosecution. We also appreciate the invaluable cooperation of the New Hampshire Department of Safety, specifically the fire marshal and the state police, during our investigation.”