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Man dies after accident at Claude Howard Lumber
Statesboro sawmill closed until further notice, company says
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A Claude Howard Lumber Co. employee died after an apparent accident while working at the sawmill on Park Avenue, officials said.

Salvador Hernandez, 32, of Statesboro, had crawled onto a piece of equipment to clear a jam on it when he was killed, Futch said.

In a statement released Tuesday, Claude Howard Lumber said Hernandez, who has been an employee for nearly four years, was killed "when he became trapped under the bander machine which he normally operated."

Futch said the 911 call was made around 7 a.m. Monday. Hernandez was taken by EMS to East Georgia Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, the coroner said.

"The company is conducting its own internal investigation to determine how the accident occurred, and is cooperating with authorities from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in their investigation," Claude Lumber Company's statement says.

The company said the plant will remain closed "until further notice."

OSHA spokesman Lindsay Williams confirmed that the agency has opened an investigation but said no details are available at this point.

Hernandez was sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Savannah for an autopsy. Futch said the death appears "more than likely" to be accidental, but it is under investigation. Futch said Tuesday evening that the autopsy was complete, but results were not available.

The company statement says President Claude Howard "deeply regrets this accident, and wishes to express his heartfelt sympathy to Mr. Hernandez's family."

"We are not a big operation, and feel like all our employees are family," Howard said. "It is too soon to tell exactly how this happened, but we are investigating and will take all steps possible to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again."

Claude Howard Lumber Company has had two complaints filed against it in the last three years, according to OSHA.

The most recent complaint, filed April 28, was for failing to maintain a forklift in a safe condition. That complaint was closed by an informal settlement Aug. 8. The penalty is $3,060, but the fine was reduced to $1,836 in the settlement, payable to OSHA, agency spokesman Williams said.

On Oct. 31, 2012, a planned OSHA inspection found a violation for a walking surface violation. Under an informal settlement reached Nov. 6, 2012, the $2,678 penalty was reduced to $1,607.

Another complaint was filed April 9, 2012, but the case was closed June 6, 2012, with no citations issued, according to OSHA records.

In an article that appeared July 1, 2010, in Timberline magazine, Bill Howard talked about the company's rich tradition and its commitment to keeping up with the latest technology in manufacturing lumber out of timber.

Howard said the company has always cut pine logs from the Statesboro area, and today, it purchases timber within a roughly 100-mile radius. He told Timberline the company produces about 65 million board feet of lumber a year.

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.




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