The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
Investigations into the Sunday death of 36-year-old millwright Paul Rochette at Vale’s Copper Cliff Smelter Complex have only begun, but it’s believed he died of head trauma after a piece of equipment malfunctioned in the casting and crushing plant about 6 p.m.
The president of United Steelworkers Local 6500 said a large piston called a moil, that was crushing ingots of nickel copper treated in the smelter and on the way to matte processing, released from an area that would have been under pressure.
While reports are preliminary, Rick Bertrand said it appears the industrial mechanic died instantly at the scene.
Greater Sudbury Police Service had not released Rochette’s name, but friends and family were posting on Facebook that he had been killed on the job.
A second millwright, 28, was injured and found unconscious at the scene, and was taken to hospital where he was in stable condition Monday. The smelter was shut down Sunday, and the Ministry of Labour and Greater Sudbury Police Service were called in. The ministry has control of the scene and is conducting an investigation, as are police, USW and Vale.
Bertrand said he couldn’t believe it when he received word Sunday that a member had been killed and another seriously injured on the job.
“It’s shocking and obviously very sad,” Bertrand told reporters.
Rochette’s death is the fourth of a Steelworker at a Vale operation in Sudbury in less than three years.
A grim-faced Kelly Strong, vice-president of Ontario and UK operations for Vale, spoke to reporters Monday at the Vale Copper Cliff Club.
“Words cannot express how devastating this is,” Strong said.
Vale’s priority is to find out what happened, and Strong said he hoped that would be by way of a joint investigation by Vale and United Steelworkers.
Strong said the two millwrights had a combined 20 years’ experience, and were well-trained and highly skilled. The deceased, Rochette, had been with Vale for two years, the younger mechanic a year.
Vale’s critical incident stress management team was at the smelter site Monday to offer personal support, and its employee family and assistance program is available to anyone who needs it.
The men were found by their supervisor early in their shift, said Strong. Smelter employees were sent home with pay
The Vale VP said company officials would be meeting to decide the safest way to restart and operate the smelter.
When asked if Vale was considering a safety pause, Strong said it was something company officials would discuss.
When development miner Stephen Perry was killed at Coleman Mine in Levack on Jan. 29, 2012, Strong called a halt to operations at Vale’s five mines while the company and its employees, union and non-union, worked together to make the facilities safer.
Some sites remained closed for two weeks. At the Steelworkers’ Hall on Brady Street later Monday morning, union executives were fielding phone calls and visits from members in shock over the loss of another colleague.
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