OAKVILLE — A Centralia man, Erin Van Brocklin, 41, was killed in a Jan. 10 logging accident on a timber parcel near the border of Pacific, Lewis and Grays Harbor Counties.
State inspection records show that the man’s employer, B&M Logging, Inc., has a good overall safety record, but has been cited for a small number of potentially deadly safety violations in recent years, including a December incident that landed another worker in a hospital.
On Wednesday, Chief Criminal Deputy Steve Shumate of the Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office said the accident occurred in a timber block on the Brooklyn T-Line Road around 11:15 a.m. on Saturday morning.
According to a police report, Van Brocklin was working alone in a somewhat isolated area when the accident happened. The lone witness to the accident was part of a crew that was preparing to move recently felled timber on another ridgeline. That witness told police he was helping to set up equipment when he heard Van Brocklin scream.
“He was seeing this from quite some distance. No one was in [Van Brocklin’s] immediate area,” Shumate said.
The initial investigation and witness statement indicate that a log broke loose on the slope above Van Brocklin and rolled downhill, crushing him against the log he was bucking. Shumate said that loggers are especially vulnerable to injury during that phase of a logging operation.
“That timber is laying loose but it’s laying on a very elevated hillside. Every so often it will slide,” Shumate said.
Due to poor cell phone reception in the remote area southwest of State Route 12, 911 dispatchers didn’t initially know what type of help to send, or exactly where responders should go. Workers extricated the badly injured man, moved him to a stretcher, and drove him about six miles to Brooklyn Road, where deputies and emergency responders waited.
Responders provided CPR, but Van Brocklin perished, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to the state Department of Labor and Industries, B & M Logging Inc., is a Chehalis-based company that is owned Brandon Smith, and employs about 76 to 100 workers.
L&I records show that the company is insured for $1 million. During the last six years, the company has not been the subject of any lawsuits, or had any license violations. The company also has lower-than-average workers’ compensation claim costs, indicating that they have relatively few injuries, compared to similar companies.
However, L&I workplace safety inspectors did record violations once in 2011, twice in 2013, and again in December 2014.
In 2011, the company had to correct five violations, including one “serious” violation for a processor who was working in an active logging area without a helmet.
In August 2013, the company was cited for failing to report a slip-and-fall accident in a timely manner. In December 2013, the company incurred another “serious” violation for failure to follow safety precautions while loading a log truck. Inspectors noted that the driver was performing a risky procedure alone in an isolated area.
The company passed inspections in June and November 2014. But in December, inspectors cited the company for a “yarding, skidding and landing” violation, when a worker was seriously injured. In that incident, workers did not ensure that a rigging crew was in the clear before giving the “go-ahead” signal.
According to L&I, “A choked log that entered the rigging man’s position struck him, causing serious injury resulting in hospitalization.” Inspectors warned B&M that “moving, rolling and or swinging logs [are] likely to cause injuries involving permanent severe disability and or death from injury.”
That violation, like all of the previous violations, was corrected.
On Wednesday, an L&I spokesperson said that the agency is investigating the most recent incident, but it could be months before the report is complete.
B&M leaders were not in the office when a Chinook Observer reporter called to request an interview on Wednesday morning. The article will be updated with their comments if they respond.