Death of Fort Bragg man is third logging tragedy for his fiancee
Dawn was just breaking when Alexis Cedillo-Osorio left his Fort Bragg apartment April 25 for his second day of on-the-job training with Anderson Logging. He kissed his 3-week-old daughter, Ezra, and his 20-year-old fiancee, Mayari Aguayo, who was in bed nursing the child.
Aguayo pleaded with him to be safe.
“I will,” Osorio promised.
Those were the last words they spoke. Hours later, Osorio, 22, was dead.
He was killed by a falling log while working as a choke setter, tying cables around trees so they could be pulled up a hill, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident, which occurred off a logging road about 15 miles northeast of Fort Bragg. The exact cause of his death is pending completion of an autopsy report.
Aguayo last week tearfully recalled their final goodbye as she sat on the couch in her tidy, newly remodeled two-bedroom apartment, holding her tiny daughter, who has a shock of black hair like her father’s.
Aguayo didn’t want him to go into logging, didn’t want him working a job that killed her father and an uncle in separate accidents in 2000. Both were tree cutters who had been struck in the head by falling trees while working in Mendocino County forests. At least five other relatives have been injured in logging accidents, Aguayo said.
“He insisted on wanting to go,” she said. Once they had a child, he wanted to earn more money so Aguayo could work less as a hotel clerk, giving her more time with Ezra.
Osorio doted on his fiancee and new child. Even though he worked two restaurant jobs, he would take over child care when he got home, often in the early morning hours, so Aguayo could rest.
“I’m just going to try it,” Osorio told his fiancee. They planned to marry Sept. 13, their fifth anniversary as a couple.
“He just wanted to give Ezra and me the best he could,” Aguayo said.
Osorio had been making about $13.50 an hour working at the two restaurants where he was employed as a busser and a prep cook.
But the entry level rate for logging was better, $18 an hour, Aguayo said. Always a hard worker, Osorio planned to continue working a second job even though Aguayo and others had warned him logging was too physically taxing.
She feels guilty she didn’t do more to stop him from taking the job. Logging jobs are among the most dangerous civilian occupations, regularly ranking at the top in on-the-job deaths per 100,000 workers in the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2014, it was the No. 1 killer, with 111 deaths per 100,000 loggers. Osorio’s is the only logging death on record for Anderson Logging in last seven years, according to Cal OSHA, which purges its records seven years after investigations are closed.
“If only I’d insisted more for him not to go, maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation for the third time,” Aguayo said.
The day of Osorio’s death, Ezra was fussy and would not sleep, which was unusual, and which her mother now considers ominous.
At 1:20 p.m., about eight hours after she’d said goodbye to Osorio, Aguayo got a call from Anderson Logging, saying there was an accident but providing no information. The woman who phoned promised to call back, but never did, Aguayo said.
She and members of both their families spent the next two hours fearful and scrambling for information.
Aguayo went to the local hospital, hoping to find Osorio, but he was not there. Finally, her stepfather went to talk to a family member who still works in logging and was able to find out what happened.
When her stepfather returned to the apartment, he just hugged her. She knew then Osorio was dead. An hour or so later, a sheriff’s deputy arrived to formally notify her of the death.
Aguayo said she’s not sure what the future holds for her and Ezra, but she’s planning to attend college - a prior plan delayed by her pregnancy - so she can better support her daughter. She’s considering a career in the health field.
Meanwhile, she will move in with her parents to save money and return to work.
She will receive some amount of death benefits for her daughter through workers compensation that will help, and there’s been an outpouring of support from friends and the community.
The Mendocino Coast Children’s Fund has begun a fundraising campaign for Ezra and the Workers Memorial Fund, which offers grants for immediate needs following a Mendocino County worker death, has contacted Aguayo.
Anderson Logging has paid for all the funeral expenses, Aguayo said. The logging company has declined to comment on the incident, which could take up to six months to investigate, according to OSHA.
Aguayo plans to share the money generated through fundraising efforts with Osorio’s mother. Most of the rest will go into a savings account for her daughter, money that can be used to pay for her quinceanera, her first car and college, she said.
She expects Ezra will learn over time what happened and who her father was, likely by overhearing stories told by his many friends and family when they get together.
He had lived in Fort Bragg since he was 3, and knew a lot people. He was generally quiet, but affable, and something of a jokester once people got to know him.
He was a good son, helping his mother with chores and errands when he wasn’t working.
“He never complained about anything,” his sister, Jazmin Osorio, said.
Aguayo has a treasure trove of photos and mementos to show Ezra someday. The first rose Osorio gave Aguayo - one week after they began dating - is pressed and kept inside a child’s book.
She also has about 30 love letters and notes Osorio has written over the years, including a Valentine’s card on which he drew a bear holding a card that says “I love you.”
Osorio used to make fun of her for keeping the letters. Now, she is grateful beyond measure she has them.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 707-462-6473 or email@example.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter.