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Worker killed at Michigan molding plant

By: Catherine Kavanaugh

March 5, 2014

A worker was crushed to death March 5 in an industrial accident at Colonial Plastics in Shelby Township, Mich.

The victim, 23-year-old old Erik Deighton, was attempting to clear an obstruction from a press machine at about 6 a.m. when he was fatally injured, according to a news release from the Shelby Township Police Department.

“The machine cycled to stamp a part and crushed the victim,” the release says.

The victim died at the scene before police and fire personnel arrived to the manufacturing plant at 51476 Filomena Drive.

Police Captain Stephen Stanbury called the incident an “unfortunate accident” following a preliminary investigation. He said the police report doesn’t indicate the exact kind of press involved but officers described it as a large machine with doors on two sides.

The victim and a co-worker were operating the press together but could not see one another, Stanbury said. The victim was leaning through the door on his side when he was killed.

“So even though the guy was leaning in through an open door, the machine thought both doors were closed and that’s why the guy on the other side who couldn’t see him [the victim] was able to start the machine or cycle it,” Stanbury said.

“It could be a machine malfunction or operator error. I don’t think it’s a sloppy operation from what our guys found at Colonial Plastics. Based on the management’s reaction, this is totally shocking. It seems they definitely care about their employees. It was truly an accident, just a sad state of affairs all the way around. The other person working on the machine was extremely distraught about it. I can only imagine how he must feel.”

The case is now being handled by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which immediately launched its own probe into the fatality. MIOSHA spokeswoman Andrea Miller said in an email that she couldn’t provide any other information while the case is an open investigation.

“Typically, this type of investigation may take several weeks or months to complete,” she said.

However, Miller did add that the state agency has “no prior history” of incidents at Colonial Plastics.

Cheryl Paschall, a spokeswoman for the business, released a statement on behalf of the company that says the owners and employees of the Colonial Group “mourn the tragic death of their fellow employee and friend, Erik Deighton.”

The release also says the company is conducting its own investigation into the cause of the accident.

Colonial Plastics is part of the Colonial Group, which also includes Colonial Molding and Colonial Consulting, according to a company website.

Colonial Plastics was a finalist for a 2012 Automotive Innovation Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers Automotive Division for an illuminated front-grille badge on Ford’s Mustang sports car.