A worker at Interfor Corp.’s Gilchrist sawmill, in northern Klamath County, died following injuries sustained after a fall while he was on the job, according to Andrew Horahan, vice president of western operations at Interfor.
Darren “Boone” Harrison, 52, served at the sawmill for a little over nine years, and was providing maintenance on equipment at the mill as an oiler, according to Horahan. Harrison leaves behind a wife and two children.
Horahan declined to discuss the details leading up to Harrison’s fall, which occurred at around 5:30 p.m. on June 25. Harrison sustained injuries in the fall and was airlifted to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.
“We curtailed our operations that evening, due to the severity of the incident,” Horahan told the Herald and News in a phone interview.
Mill officials learned on July 1 that Harrison had succumbed to injuries sustained during his fall.
“We knew he was in a tough situation,” Horahan said. “We were all hoping and praying for him.
“We had brought our employees in on the first (July 1) and we were planning to go back to work on the second, but to give people a chance to grieve, and to come to grips with this, we curtailed operations again on the second, and then because we were going into the July 4 holiday, as well, we wanted to give people the time to come to grips with this.”
Crews spent Monday refocusing on safety to ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur in the future.
Full operations were in place as of Tuesday, Horahan added.
“It’s a small community, that’s a tight-knit community, and it’s a tight-knit workforce,” Horahan said.
Horahan said grief counselors have been provided onsite for employees in the aftermath of the incident.
“It’s very challenging for everyone on that site,” Horahan said.
“The mill … it’s in a grieving period,” he added.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Boone’s family, and his friends and his colleagues right now,” Horahan added.
The sawmill produces high-value lumber with a focus on one-inch ponderosa pine boards, Horahan said, adding the Gilchrist mill produces 75 million board feet per year.
The fatality is the third at the sawmill in 15 years, one of two Oregon sawmills operated by Interfor, according to a previous H&N story. A worker was killed in April 2004 after a 2,000-pound roller crushed him, according to the previous story.
Another worker was killed in 2008 after he was crushed between a load of logs and a CAT 988 loader, according to a previous H&N story. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited the sawmill following the 2008 incident, fining the mill $2,500, according to the previous story.
The June 25 incident involving Harrison’s fall was listed in initial reports on Oregon’s OSHA website as of Monday. An OSHA representative for Oregon could not be reached about the incident as of press time.
Specific to Klamath County, Horahan said the company’s goals are to continue to operate and hopefully continue to improve of the Gilchrist operation.
“It’s a good operation for our company with a good fiber supply and a good workforce,” he said.
The sawmill has approximately 160 employees, Horahan said.
“We’re very blessed with employees in the Gilchrist area – they’re hardworking people,” Horahan said.