Harmac worker dead after chip pile collapses

NANAIMO – Man dies in early morning accident while working on wood chip pile.

One man died at Harmac Pacific pulp mill on the weekend when a wood chip pile he was working on collapsed.

RCMP Cpl. Sarah Mattes, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman, said the RCMP were called to the mill site at 5:30 a.m. Friday.

“We’re assisting the coroners service in their investigation,” Mattes said.

Levi Sampson, Harmac Pacific president, confirmed the worker who died was Chris Fletcher, 37, of Nanaimo, who had worked at the mill for about four years.

Fletcher was operating a bulldozer on top of a wood chip pile when he apparently stopped the machine, got out and was standing somewhere next to it when the chip pile gave way from under him.

“It’s not abnormal for someone working a ’dozer to exit the ’dozer,” Sampson said. “They’re checking on a chip pile or checking on the machinery that you’re operating, itself, but while he was out of the ’dozer and standing somewhere in the vicinity, the chip pile underneath him gave way and he fell.”

Friday’s incident was the first fatality at the mill since it became an employee-owned company in 2008.

“Looking back and talking to people, I think the last fatality was more than 20 years ago – well before my time,” Sampson said, adding he knew Fletcher, who had a lot of friends at the mill.

“We’ve had counsellors on scene just to provide anybody with an ear to talk to and work through this difficult time.”