Searchers recover loader operator's body

Paul Ritola, 74, died in Thursday accident

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: September 30, 2011, 3:09 PM

 

Search and rescue crews Friday afternoon recovered the body of the operator of a front-end loader who went missing Thursday evening.

The 74-year-old operator was identified as Paul Ritola, a longtime county resident who lived near the Tebo gravel pit, which is at 24810 N.E. 92nd Ave.

There were apparently no witnesses to the accident.

When Ritola did not return home for dinner Thursday, family members went to the nearby Tebo Pit, where he had been working, and found the accident scene.

Divers and technical rescue team members responded at 8:45 p.m. Thursday and found the loader on its side in 6 to 8 feet of murky water.

Crews were on scene Thursday night and Friday to search for Ritola. Multiple agencies, including the Clark County Sheriff's Office, Clark County Fire and Rescue, Clark County Search and Rescue, Clark County Dive Team, Southwest Washington Organization of Divers (SWORD), and Department of Ecology, were on hand.

Several local businesses with access to heavy equipment and expertise also assisted. The sheriff's office will investigate the accident.