A Benton County, Ore. road worker who died on the job was operating a poorly maintained piece of leased logging equipment that was owned by his supervisor’s son, according to findings from two investigations.
Pete Neuman, 59, was using a John Deere skidder to move logs at the site of a road-building project in the Hells Canyon area of south Benton County Aug. 9 when the vehicle rolled down a steep hillside and overturned, the Gazette-Times in Corvallis reported.
Neuman was partially ejected from the 10-ton machine and died from massive head trauma when it landed on top of him.
An internal review by the county and an investigation by the Benton County Sheriff’s Office found numerous safety issues with the skidder, including frequent stalling, brake failures, bald rear tires and a jury-rigged seat belt.
Investigators also determined that Jim Stouder, the longtime head of the county road department, had approved a rental agreement for the skidder that paid his son, Charlie Stouder, more than $7,000.
Benton County officials issued a statement expressing regret for Neuman’s death and professing a commitment to employee safety. However, citing a pending insurance claim, they declined to respond to questions from the newspaper or make managers available for interviews.
Jim Stouder is no longer employed by Benton County and did not return phone calls requesting an interview.
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