GRAYS RIVER — A logger lost his life in a remote and rugged part of southeastern Pacific County on Sept. 22.
William John Leonard, 50, of Centralia died while “shovel logging” for ENB Logging at a remote site owned by Rayonier Forest Resources, near the Fossil Creek area, according to the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office.
In a Sept. 23 press release, Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock said one of Leonard’s co-workers called 911 at about 12:25 p.m. on Thursday. The caller reported that the piece of heavy equipment Leonard was operating had rolled down a steep embankment. Responders from PCSO, Naselle Fire and Rescue and other local agencies handled the call.
A deputy at the scene reported that Leonard’s “... logging shovel ‘loader’ appeared to have toppled several hundred yards down a steep embankment, rolling over and over again,” according to Matlock. When it came to rest, it was upside down on a small service road below the embankment. Witness statements and evidence suggest that Leonard was moving trees up the hill when it tipped over. He died at the scene.
The site of the accident was reportedly about 16 miles from the closest paved road, and the remote location and steep terrain appear to have made it difficult to retrieve Leonard’s body. In an email sent at about 3:30, Sheriff Scott Johnson said rescuers were still working to retrieve Leonard from the bottom of the canyon. He said deputies at the scene estimated that the distance to the bottom was about 500 yards.
As of press time, little information about Leonard was available. A Facebook profile that appears to belong to him showed a smiling man with a penchant for silly t-shirts. It featured few posts, others than several photos of himself with his wife of about 20 years.