Authorities investigate Lewiston mill death

LEWISTON — A 35-year-old man has died at a Lewiston paper mill, and authorities are investigating whether he fell victim to an industrial accident, a health issue or a combination of the two.

The Lewiston Tribune reports that John A. Bergen III has been identified as the man who died Wednesday night while working on a paperboard machine at Clearwater Paper Corp.

KLEW-TV reports Bergen apparently fell while on the job, struck his head and landed on a conveyor belt that dropped him into a 1,500-gallon pulp vat.

Bergen was pronounced dead after being transported to a hospital by medics, but more details are being withheld by the company as officials scrutinize just what preceded the incident at the No. 2 paperboard machine at about 10:30 p.m.

“We want to do a thorough investigation so there’s no speculation,” said Matt Van Vleet, a spokesman for Clearwater Paper, adding there was no fire or explosion.

Van Vleet said the last fatal industrial accident was in 2000 at the mill on the Clearwater River.

Grief counseling is being offered to employees.

“This is very, very tough for us at Clearwater Paper,” he said. “Our sympathy and concerns are first with the family and our employees.”

Clearwater Paper and the Nez Perce County Sheriff, as well as Nez Perce County Coroner Gary Gilliam and the federal Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, are cooperating on the probe of Bergen’s death.

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