August 23, 2019

Caribou man rolls bulldozer at plant Worker still critical a week after accident

A Caribou man remained in critical condition Thursday at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, one week after the bulldozer he was operating tumbled down a high pile of wood chips at an energy plant in Fort Fairfield.

John Pelkey, 62, suffered serious injuries about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 15 when the bulldozer he was in rolled end over end down a 30- to 40-foot wood chip pile at Boralex Fort Fairfield Inc., according to a police report.

Pelkey was not wearing a restraint in the bulldozer and was thrown around inside the cab of the vehicle as it tumbled, police said.

When local police arrived, Pelkey was unconscious. Emergency workers rushed him by ambulance to The Aroostook Medical Center and later flew him to Bangor, the report said.

Company officials said several investigations are under way at the Fort Fairfield plant following the accident, which is the first of its kind for the Canadian-based company in several years, said Jean Lamoureux, corporate coordinator for health and safety.

In a telephone interview from Montreal, Lamoureux explained that Pelkey’s job was to push wood chips at the plant’s fuel yard onto a conveyor belt that led inside the plant. The wood chips fuel the plant’s boiler. He said it is standard practice for a bulldozer to drive up onto a wood chip pile and push it over.

One of the reasons officials are investigating the incident, Lamoureux said, is because no one actually knows what caused the accident.

“There were no witnesses to the event,” he said. “There were people in the fuel yard, but no one actually saw what happened. They heard the noise of the dozer rolling over and the thump when it hit the ground. … It’s a bit of a mystery in terms of what exactly happened. At this point, we can only speculate.”

Officials said the company’s two priorities now include the health of their employee and measures to stop a similar incident from occurring.

“We are supporting the family and doing everything we can to ensure security in all of our plants and make sure this does not occur again,” company spokeswoman Mylene Masse said Thursday from her Montreal office.

“We’re going to make sure that whatever recommendations come out of the investigations, that we follow the recommendations,” Masse said.

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