Man dies after tractor rolls over; Crofton Mill shut for mourning

The Crofton Mill has been shut down until further notice after an employee died in an industrial accident late Wednesday.

A man in his 60s was killed when the Caterpillar tractor he was driving rolled over near the entrance to the Catalyst Paper Mill.

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North Cowichan Duncan RCMP, WorkPlace B.C. and the B.C. Coroners Service are investigating. The man’s name has not been released. RCMP victims services is offering support to the family and others affected by the tragedy.

“We shut down the mill this morning,” said Eduarda Hodgins, director of communications for Catalyst Paper, on Thursday.

“We made the decision because it’s the right thing to do. People are in mourning. There’s been a tragic event and out of respect and honour for this individual and his family, we did that.”

The mill’s 600 employees have been hit hard by the death, Hodgins said.

“It’s really, really tough. This is a colleague, but it’s also a friend that they live and work with in their community.”

Joe Nemeth, Catalyst Paper’s president and chief executive officer, said he was saddened by the tragic accident. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased.”

Scott McCloy, director of media relations for WorkSafe B.C., said RCMP were called to the mill at 11:45 p.m. Wednesday. Police then contacted WorkSafe B.C., which sent two investigators.

“We believe the incident happened earlier in the evening, but at what time, we’re not sure and that will form part of the investigation,” McCloy said.

The accident happened at a hog fuel pile — a mound of debris, largely bark, he said. “There was a Caterpillar tractor working on that big fuel pile and the tractor rolled. We don’t know how and why it rolled.”

The investigators at the scene will talk to the workers and the managers who were working that night, McCloy said. He did not know how long the investigation would take.

WorkSafe B.C. will draft an incident investigation report which will be shared with the employer and the workers.

This is the second death at the pulp and paper mill in just over a year. In December 2014, a truck driver delivering wood chips disappeared.

Perry Vernon Thomas, 66, of Qualicum Beach was discovered in one of the mill’s storage silos two days later. The silo is connected to the area where Thomas was delivering his load by a conveyor belt more than 300 metres long.

The coroner, the RCMP and WorkSafe B.C. were all involved in that investigation.

Catalyst Paper has been working with WorkSafe B.C. on their continuing investigation into that tragedy, Hodgins said.

“They issued a summary report late last week and we have asked for a copy of the complete report to fully assess their findings and recommendations.”

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