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Bagley accident victim died before rescuers reached him

BAGLEY, Minn. -- Michael Ross Larson died before emergency responders or fellow employees could rescue him from a workplace accident Tuesday in Bagley, said Police Chief Larry Peterson.

Law enforcement officials released the name of the 41-year-old Fosston man Wednesday after contacting his relatives.

Larson, a longtime employee of Bagley Hardwood Products, was standing next to a large, hangar-like door Tuesday morning as it opened when his jacket was entangled in cables that are part of the lift mechanism.

The door is about 40 feet wide and 20 feet high, said Peterson, one of the responders.

Larson was pulled up until his feet were about 3 feet off the ground, Peterson said. Other employees used equipment to attempt to free him, as did the fire department, the police chief said.

The 911 call came about 8:40 a.m. and responders located on the west side of town didn’t take long to get to the plant.

“It appeared he was deceased at the time we arrived, before we were able to get him free,” Peterson said. “We used all the resources we had. But at the time of our arrival, there were no signs of life.”

Larson was a longtime employee of the plant, which makes plywood, mouldings and paneling from lumber.

Bagley Hardwood brought in grief counselors for employees Tuesday, Peterson said.

OSHA investigates

An inspector from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Minnesota visited the plant Tuesday and opened an investigation, said James Honerman, a spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industry, which includes the state’s OSHA office.

“There’s no time frame on how long it will take,” he said.

Last year, Minnesota’s OSHA office investigated 18 workplace fatalities in the state, which is the average number seen the past five years, he said. The total of 91 such fatalities from 2009 to 2013 include “employee deaths resulting from an employment accident or illness caused by or related to a workplace hazard,” he said.

The annual totals have ranged from 15 in 2010 to 23 in 2011.

The construction industry accounts for 31 percent of the fatalities the past five years and general industry accounts for 69 percent, he said.

The Bagley plant was fined $1,025 for three violations in June 2012 during a routine OSHA safety inspection, he said.

The most serious was a lack of proper guardrails at floor and wall openings and holes, according to the OSHA report. Two lesser violations involved not properly storing oxygen-fuel containers used for welding and cutting.

In 2008, Bagley Hardwood was fined $280 by OSHA during a routine health safety inspection over not providing proper abatement of loud sounds in the plant.

An employee at the plant referred a reporter to the firm’s corporate parent, Renneberg Hardwoods in Menahga. A call to a spokesman there was not returned Wednesday.