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News / Business / Clark County Business

Police reports shed light on workplace death at Camas mill

KEmployees said machine where Dakota Cline, 32, of Hazel Dell was killed had been ‘having issues’

By Kelly Moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: March 30, 2024, 6:08am

CAMAS — Police reports filed in the wake of a workplace death at the Camas paper mill shed light on what may have happened in the moments leading up to the death of a 32-year-old Hazel Dell man.

Georgia-Pacific mill employee Dakota Cline died about 5 p.m. March 8 while working on a machine involved in the plant’s packing process. He had worked for the mill since 2022.

According to a report by Camas police Sgt. Brian Salwasser, Cline was working alone on equipment that had reportedly been having issues earlier in the day.

Other mill employees said they were operating equipment “upstream” from Cline in a separate building about 300 yards away. Employees put boxes of product onto a conveyor belt, and then Cline was tasked with operating a machine that organized the boxes onto pallets and wrapped them in plastic for shipping.

A Georgia-Pacific spokesperson said earlier this month that Cline had been fully trained on the machine and had been operating it for the three months prior to his death.

The employees Salwasser interviewed said the machine where Cline was working had been “having issues” earlier that day, and they had last spoken to Cline about 4 p.m. When the employees noticed boxes “getting backed up on the conveyor belt,” about 4:30 p.m., they waited 15 minutes and went to check on Cline, according to the police report.

The mill workers found Cline entangled in the packaging machine.

Police said the two employees who discovered Cline’s body immediately alerted security staff, who called for assistance from police and emergency medical services.

Cline was dead when police arrived, according to the report. Mill employees erected a temporary barrier to help shield Cline’s body from onlookers.

Camas police Officer Casey Handley responded to the scene with Salwasser.

In a separate report, Handley noted “Georgia-Pacific staff were just shutting the machine down fully” when the police officer walked into the building where Cline worked.

Later, Camas police Sgt. Stefan Hausinger and Detective Gary Manning arrived at the mill and took over the investigation.

Hausinger’s report includes an interview with John Busby, the mill’s operations manager, who told police the machine on which Cline was working has “sensors along the edges of the conveyor system, which are triggered by the boxes moving by them” and that communicate with the machine to maneuver the large metal “arms” that help feed the boxes through the packing machine.

“If an employee wanted to enter the caged area where this packaging equipment was kept, they needed to perform a lockout procedure” to turn off the power and “pin the mechanical arms in question in an upward position before working around the equipment,” Hausinger noted in the report. “Busby told me none of these safety checks were done, and this was verified by the employees who found Cline.”

Busby told police he believed Cline may have “inadvertently tripped one of the sensors, causing the arms to come down on him,” Hausinger said in the report.

A supervisor told Handley that Cline had “a troubled history with substance abuse” and had been in recovery treatment.

Handley’s report noted Cline’s supervisors said they had been trying to help him with his recovery and were “trying to get him a new sponsor and help” through an employee-assistance program.

During the investigation, police removed the contents of Cline’s pockets and found “a plastic sandwich baggie rolled up with a white powdery substance inside.”

A test conducted later at the Camas Police Department resulted in “a presumptive positive test for the presence of fentanyl,” Hausinger reported.

In his report, Manning noted Cline’s direct supervisor had talked to Cline earlier in the day.

“Cline had called her and told her both sides of the machinery were down,” Manning said in his report. “The A side had ‘crashed’ earlier, due to boxes coming down together and not (separating), which causes a mess.

“She stated that Cline told her he cleared off the line so he could work on that side.”

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When the machine started having issues again, Cline called the supervisor. She told police she instructed Cline “to just take his time and get in contact (with another supervisor) to help him,” Manning’s report said. “He then told her the computer did something weird and might be glitching because it (was) working again. She stated Cline sounded as if he was managing the problem with the machines. She stated that he … didn’t sound stressed or emotional.”

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is investigating the death and has not released any findings.

Memorial, GoFundMe

Cline’s family and friends will host a memorial service to honor Cline’s life at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at RV Inn Style Resorts Convention Center, 7607 N.E. 26th Ave., Vancouver.

Members of the mill workers’ union have established an online fundraiser to help support Cline’s family and cover funeral expenses.

“In this moment of profound sorrow, we come together to support the family of Dakota Cline, a valued member of the Local 5 Camas, who lost his life in a tragic workplace accident,” Aaron Boedeker, a local leader with the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 5 union that represents Camas paper mill workers, stated in a GoFundMe fundraiser, gofundme.com/f/dakota-cline.

As of Thursday, the GoFundMe had raised $16,892, surpassing its $15,000 goal.

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