Worker killed in Cloverdale sawmill was trying to clear jammed machine

A mill worker who died Wednesday afternoon at the Redwood Empire Sawmill in Cloverdale was trying to clear a jam in an automated tree debarking machine when he became entangled in some equipment and was killed, authorities said.

Ukiah resident Raul Lule, 43, was pronounced dead minutes after firefighters were dispatched to the McCray Road mill, a familiar landmark surrounded by piles of unmilled logs and cut lumber just off Highway 101 on the north side of town.

Details of the incident remained unclear Thursday.

Company officials from Redwood Empire, a division of Pacific States Industries Inc. in San Jose, did not respond to inquiries beyond issuing a statement saying they were "deeply saddened" by Lule's death.

A company spokesman, Austin Vanderhoof, said the circumstances of the fatal accident were under investigation and he could not comment.

Cloverdale firefighters who responded to provide medical aid referred questions to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office and Cal-OSHA, the state occupational safety agency investigating Lule's death. Personnel from those agencies could not provide any information except that Lule had become entangled in machinery.

The father of two is the second worker to die at the mill in the past 4? years, according to Cal-OSHA.

Another man died Sept. 15, 2008, also after becoming caught up in machinery, according to Cal-OSHA records.

That millhand was working at a conveyor-like chain table that moved trimmed lumber from one place to another. He reached over a railing to straighten out some lumber and slipped, causing his hand to become entangled between a chain and some sprocket teeth, leading to his death, the Cal-OSHA report states.

Agency records also outline a history of serious injury accidents, including several finger amputations and numerous fractures, at mill facilities run by Redwood Empire on McCray and Asti roads in Cloverdale, as well as Highway 128 in the Anderson Valley community of Philo.

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