One Dies, Another Hurt In Logging Accidents Seat Belt May Have Prevented Year’s 5th Timber Industry Death
Logging accidents killed one North Idaho man and critically injured another Monday.
Melvin Lang, 56, was crushed by a logging skidder near Little Squaw Bay, east of Worley, Monday morning. Lang’s skidder rolled down an embankment and landed on its side, trapping him underneath, said Worley Fire Chief Lonnie Dyer.
One of the Lewiston man’s co-workers ran to a nearby house to call for help. Lang was extricated by the Worley ambulance crew and flown to Kootenai Medical Center, where he later died.
The skidder had a roll cage but Lang apparently was not using his seat belt.
Gene J. McFarland remains in critical condition in the Deaconess Medical Center intensive care unit after a separate logging accident north of Priest River near Middle Fork Roads. McFarland, 25, of Pinehurst, apparently was struck by a tree about 2 p.m., according to the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department.
He was discovered by co-workers at L&M; Logging after yelling for help.
McFarland’s chest was crushed. He also suffered head injuries, internal injuries and a broken leg, the Sheriff’s Department said. He was airlifted to Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane.
Counting Monday’s mishaps, there have been seven accidents in North Idaho woods or lumber mills this year. Five of these incidents resulted in fatalities, and Monday’s likely could have been avoided with use of a seat belt.
“The seat belt would have kept him in the roll cage during the roll,” said Ryan Kuehmichel, area director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “He quite likely would have survived.”
It’s a common problem. OSHA issues citations for lack of seat belt use on skidders at 70 percent of the logging sites it visits, Kuehmichel estimated.
“How many drivers up there use seat belts?” Kuehmichel said. “Folks don’t believe in them so they don’t use them.”
Logging claims an average of four lives a year in Idaho. Half of the deaths are from trees falling on people and half are equipmentrelated.
Logging, mining and fishing in Alaska routinely trade places as the most dangerous occupations in the country, Kuehmichel said.
Just a month ago, a 49-year-old Cataldo man was killed on a firewood cutting expedition. Donald E. Johns died after the tractor he was using rolled over on him.
In June, a Pinehurst man was seriously injured when he was hit by a tree. A St. Maries man was killed in May while skidding trees near Carlin Bay.
In addition, two area men have died in lumber mill accidents this year, one in Post Falls and the other in Bonners Ferry.