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Federal investigators probe Massena restaurant accident

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MASSENA — Federal labor and safety investigators based in Syracuse came to Massena on Monday to find out what led to an accident in a restaurant kitchen that severed a 17-year-old employee’s arm last week.

Brett M. Bouchard, 17, severed his right arm at the elbow while cleaning a large pasta-making machine Thursday evening at Violi’s Restaurant, 209 Center St.

He underwent surgery Friday at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, where he remained in serious condition Monday night, according to hospital spokeswoman Katie M. Marquedant.

As friends and co-workers monitored Mr. Bouchard’s recovery and started raising money on his behalf, investigators began looking into the circumstances of the accident, including whether the work he was performing was legal for a 17-year-old to do.

Benjamin Hahn, a technician in the U.S. Labor Department Wage and Hour Division, said the legal age for an employee to operate a pasta-making machine is 18.

Mr. Hahn said that for a 17-year-old to operate the machine would violate child labor laws, but it was unclear whether Mr. Bouchard’s cleaning the machine would be considered operating it.

“We already have an investigator in the field,” he said.

Christopher R. Adams, area director for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the agency sent an investigator to interview employees and check for violations of standards Monday morning.

“We don’t have any information on this specific investigation yet, but generally, with any accident investigation, we try to find out if the particular piece of machinery was turned off and the power disconnected,” he said.

Mr. Adams said OSHA officials, when investigating workplace accidents, also usually look into whether training procedures were followed.

“When we find a violation, we issue citations or notifications of the violations, which may or may not have penalties,” he said.

Mr. Adams said a violation is classified as serious when it could cause serious injury to an employee. The maximum penalty for a serious violation is $7,000, he said.

Mr. Bouchard’s injury has prompted a fundraising effort by his friends and family members, with a goal of $50,000. The Brett Bouchard Recovery Fund is a Web page on a free online fundraising site, youcaring.com. As of Monday night, it had raised $1,315 with 34 registered supporters.

On the page, an unidentified family member posted that surgeons were able to reattach Mr. Bouchard’s arm by using veins and arteries from his right leg. The site said Mr. Bouchard has been kept asleep and is on a ventilator to prevent him from moving his arm.

The family member wrote that surgeons said there is a 30 percent chance that Mr. Bouchard’s arm may have to be amputated again if it loses blood flow.

“Brett will be going back in the operating room (today) to attempt nerve and tendon reattachment if all stays stable,” the post stated.

Attempts to reach the family for comment were unsuccessful.

Mia Violi, a restaurant manager, also started an online fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding website GoFundMe with a goal of raising $50,000. As of about 10:30 p.m. Monday, the site had raised $4,505.

“We would like to raise money to help with medical expenses and travel expenses for his family. ... Brett is an amazing young man and deserves any help,” she wrote on the site.

The page can be accessed at http://www.gofundme.com/8nz5pc.

Mr. Bouchard is a senior at Massena Central School and an environmental technology student at Seaway Technical Center, Norwood.

Principal Ronald P. Burke said that when tragedy strikes a student, school officials try to counsel other students or close friends who may have difficulty dealing with the situation.

“We have a counselor here who has reached out to his closest friends,” he said. “Most of the shock has worn off by now.”

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