JULY 8, 2010

Sawmill fined in former Orofino manís death

   The Yakama Nationís sawmill, located in White Swan, WA, has been hit with $59,850 in fines following a federal probe into the death of a Fort Simcoe Job Corps student that turned up several safety violations. The Job Corps student, Tyler Challinor, 20, was formerly of Orofino. Challinorís family currently lives in Orofino.

   Challinor was crushed at the sawmill Jan. 7 while working on a tractor. Its raised large bucket fell on top of him. Following the accident the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted an investigation into Yakama Forest Products. The investigation concluded that safety equipment wasnít used and safety procedures were lacking, according to the citations. Violations ranged from lack of fire extinguishers to unlabeled fuel tanks, lack of safety rails along conveyers transporting logs and the absence of a safety guard on one large saw blade.

   According to Yakama Tribal Council Chairman, Harry Smiskin, the tribe plans to contest the findings. The tribe in its own court has filed a lawsuit against Challinorís family and its own insurance company, seeking that Challinorís estate only receives $2,000 offered under its worker compensation benefits and that its insurance company reimburses the tribe for attorney fees and any additional costs.

   Brian Smith, a Yakima, WA attorney representing Challinorís family, has filed a counter wrongful death lawsuit against the tribe seeking unspecified damages. Smith points to an agreement the mill entered with the U.S. Department of Interior, promising to follow state and federal regulations when employing Fort Simcoe students, as grounds for the wrongful death lawsuit and a valid argument against the tribeís sovereign immunity in this case.