A worker fell to his death last week at a lumber mill near Clarkston.
Local authorities reported Jeffrey M. Midstokke, 55, was working on a debarker machine at the Guy Bennett Lumber Co. mill when he fell on the morning of Dec. 20.
A post-autopsy report from the Whitman County coroner said Midstokke fell about 16 feet onto a “chain conveyor system,” which transported his body until the system was automatically shut down by a metal detector – a safety feature designed to prevent saw blades from hitting errant nails and metal fragments in pieces of wood.
The coroner’s report said Midstokke fell at 10:35 a.m. and died almost immediately of head and spine injuries. It lists the manner of death as an accident.
Midstokke was married and had lived in Peck, Idaho, for nine years.
Elaine Fischer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Industries, said the agency is conducting an investigation into the incident that could take several months.
“It can take a while when it involves a fatality,” Fischer said.
Founded in 1939, Bennett Lumber owns two mills – one in Princeton, Idaho, and one in the Port of Wilma on the Snake River, just across from Clarkston.
A statement on the company’s website said the “ultramodern” Clarkston facility, where Midstokke died, went into operation in the early 1990s. Labor and Industries records say the mill employs 76 to 100 workers.
Fischer said the agency hasn’t had a reason to conduct a safety inspection there in at least a decade.
The mill’s general manager, Mitch Dimke, did not respond to a message seeking comment on Wednesday.
This is at least the second fatal accident at an Inland Northwest lumber mill in recent months. In September, 45-year-old Robert Billingsley was fatally injured while clearing a piece of wood from a machine at Merritt Brothers Lumber Co. in Athol.
That incident is under investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
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