UPDATE| OSHA investigation begins after man falls to death at International Paper

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, June 23, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- An investigation is just beginning into the death of a man on the job at International Paper.

The company released a statement saying Michael Hill died Monday night at the plant on Mike Padgett Highway.

The coroner says he was operating a crane when Hill fell nearly 70 feet.

Tuesday afternoon, News 12 sat down with one of the only people who understands what Hill's family is going through.

Denise Clark remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I was 15. I remember exactly where I was," she said.

In 1987, her brother Brian Porter slipped and fell from 9 stories high while working at the Augusta paper mill. He was building one of the towers there.

"He was on the scaffolding for the main structure," she remembered. "He slipped through, and the guy that was with him try to grab them and he couldn't hold on."

It's all too similar to what happened to another man Monday night.

Mike Hill worked in the wood yard at International Paper and was operating a large crane before the accident happened. The cab for the operator sits up high in the air.

"He ended up falling out of the crane box after an accident," Coroner Mark Bowen said. "He fell approximately 60 to 70 feet maybe."

That's about seven stories high. Hill did not survive.

When Denise heard, it brought her to tears.

"When I saw the News 12 Facebook thing about the guy falling out there, it just brought back memories of when my brother fell," Clark said.

Coroner Bowen says when he got to the scene, Hill was not wearing a harness. John Ferguson used to work at a different International Paper plant before he got hurt and left the job.

"If you fell that far and he didn't have a harness on, then you know obviously there's questions about that," Ferguson said.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to find the answers. Investigators arrived on scene Tuesday morning.

According to News 12 archives, the last death at the plant was in 2009, but records show the last OSHA investigation was in November of last year for a health concern.

In February of 2013, OSHA flagged International Paper for three violations, citing amputation as the emphasis.

As for Hill's case, the plant is starting back at zero departmental safe days in the wood yard as we wait for answers.

International Paper says Hill worked with the company for close to 15 years.

If you have a safety concern you'd like to report, News 12 is On Your Side with how to do that. You can either call any OSHA office. The number for our area is 770-493-6644. Or, you can file an electronic complain online at www.osha.gov.

OSHA has a rotating Duty Officer assigned to assist callers with complaints. Electronic complaints will be routed to the correct office for a quick response.

Workers can remain anonymous. However, that prevents OSHA from being able to follow up with workers after the investigation. OSHA says they encourage workers to provide them with their contact info. They say OSHA never tells the employer who files the complaint. Only OSHA knows.


Monday June 22, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Investigators are on the scene, at International Paper, after the coroner says a man fell to his death.

Michael Hill, 44, of Hephzibah, fell 50-70 feet. Richmond County Police are on the scene investigating. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to start an investigation tomorrow.

Augusta Mill Manager for International Paper, Dick Jackson, has said they are conducting a full investigation and cooperating with appropriate agencies to determine the exact circumstances of Hill's death.