LORAIN — Authorities are investigating the death of a Republic Steel employee who was killed in a late-morning accident Friday in the plant’s train yard.
Lorain County Coroner Stephen Evans said the incident killed a 62-year-old man who worked as a brakeman on a train crew operating on the grounds of the sprawling East 28th Street plant.
Evans declined to release the man’s name Friday evening, saying authorities were still contacting family members.
The man was riding on the side of a train car delivering scrap to the steel mill, said Tom McDermott, president pro tem of Local 1104 of the United Steelworkers. The single train car, which was being pulled by a lone engine, hit a set of parked train cars.
“Apparently they did not notice when the train came around to where the other set of cars were sitting motionless on a separate set of tracks,” Evans said. “The man was riding on the side of the (moving) car. He got pinched between the two sets of cars. The other set of cars were apparently off the track a little.”
He died immediately from multiple injuries, Evans said. An autopsy will be performed today.
McDermott said the man was married and had a family. He was from Lorain County, Evans said.
All production at the plant was stopped Friday, and all workers were sent home, said Paula Dudukovich, director of human resources for Republic Steel.
“This is shocking and tragic news for all of us but especially for the family, friends and colleagues of our employee,” Dudukovich said.
Dudukovich described the man as a “longtime Republic Steel employee.”
Local 1104 sent its Emergency Response Team to the plant upon hearing of the fatal accident to offer counseling to fellow employees, McDermott said. He said he did not know how many, if any, workers witnessed the incident.
The union also plans to contact the family to offer any assistance that might be needed, McDermott said.
An official in the Toledo offices of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which oversees the Lorain County area, said the agency already has begun investigating the Republic Steel incident. “We received notification there was a fatality there and we have begun our investigative process,” said Chad Positano, an assistant area director for the Toledo OSHA office.
Positano could not confirm any specifics surrounding the incident.
“We have up to six months to complete our investigation and determine whether any citations are warranted for safety violations,” Positano said.
Positano declined to speculate on the nature of any possible violations.
“If there are any violations of safety regulations, then we need to make sure they get corrected,” Positano said.
Republic Steel was also cooperating with local authorities to investigate the death, and the steelmaker’s risk management team was also to probe the circumstances “to determine what happened, and what we can do to make sure something like this does not happen again,” according to the company’s statement.
Friday’s accident wasn’t the first at the steel plant.
Last year, Republic Steel reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor over worker safety violations in its Lorain mill that called for a fine of $235,000 and the hiring of full-time health and safety managers for each of the company’s plants and improved safety programs.
The company has received several “willful” and “repeat” safety violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The fine issued in April 2012 followed fines of $143,000 for 13 OSHA violations at the plant in 2010, including violations which led to a worker being hospitalized with a broken pelvis after falling nine feet.
In 2007, 35-year-old Jose Diaz fell to his death after slipping off a narrow ledge at the plant. More recently, in September, a 50-year-old worker was hospitalized after falling through a roof at the billet caster water treatment building, which is about 40 years old.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reporter Chelsea Miller contributed to this story.