BURLEY — Tree Trouble of Burley has been fined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a fatal accident in November that killed a man and severely injured another when a bucket truck plummeted 65 feet to the ground during a tree-trimming incident.
Corbin Bowers, 28, was killed and Emmet Koyle, 26, was injured. Both men hail from Burley and were expecting baby daughters.
Owner Scott Yates was fined $14,778 by OSHA for the fatality accident, and the fine was reduced in a settlement to $12,000.
According to OSHA documents, Yates was cited because there were pre-existing stress cracks more than 3 inches long present at the knuckle boom elbow where the upper and lower booms connect. Components including critical weld areas on the booms and pivot knuckles were not inspected, repaired or maintained according to manufacturer specs and industry standards. A line attachment used to cut limbs was frayed in multiple locations, torque stops and anti-spin locks were missing on the upper and lower boom sections and the company failed to maintain control operation placards on the ground controls and on the platform bucket controls.
The company was also cited for using the Reach-All articulating boom lift truck in a modified manner. The modified use subjected the boom and critical components of the boom to shock loading and sideways pulling. Employees were not required to wear a personal fall restraint system while trimming trees from the basket of the lift truck, which exposed them to potential falls of up to 75 feet. The company was additionally cited for not reporting a work-related employee death within eight hours.
The report said both employees were trimming tree limbs and a limb swung below the bucket, causing a side load on the knuckle boom. The knuckle boom arm broke and both employees fell to the ground.
Yates was also cited in May in a separate incident, for a vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platforms violation and fined $2,842. He settled the fine with OSHA for $2,000.
“I’m trying to learn from my mistakes,” Yates said. “We went under extreme scrutiny by OSHA.”
But Bowers’ family isn’t satisfied. They say they were outraged last week when the company offered rides in the lift truck’s bucket at the Cassia County Fair & Rodeo.
Yates said the bucket truck at the fair was not the truck involved in the November accident and the company chose to take the truck to the event because it is the only one of its kind in the region.
Family members say they were concerned someone else could have been injured.
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“It just seemed very callous and uncaring of him,” said Bowers’ mother, Lisa Swanke, of Eagle. “I’m horrified at the insensitivity and exploitation of doing such a thing. Does another life have to be lost before someone pays attention?”
Swanke said Bowers’ wife never spoke with the owner of Tree Trouble at the fair.
“He was very elusive and she never got to talk to him,” Swanke said. “She even left a note on his truck. I thought it took extreme courage for her to do that.”
Yates said on Monday that he took his 155-foot-lift truck to the fair last week, but the company was not advertising rides to the public.
“We did give rides to certain people, and we didn’t charge them but it was not open to the public,” Yates said.
Members of Bowers’ family have also criticized Yates for not expressing remorse for the company’s role in the accident. Yates said he has spoken to members of the victims’ families since the accident and helped with a fundraiser at a craft show to benefit the families. He said he was told by their attorneys to not speak with them anymore.
“I understand their feeling and understand their loss,” Yates said. “But, if I walk down the street and it causes them grief, what am I supposed to do, move?”
Yates’ brother, Wesley Yates, was killed in 2012 in a wood-chipping accident at Acequia. Yates said his brother had borrowed the wood chipper from him.
Yates said he, too, feels grief over Bowers’ death, but he still has a business to run with 10 to 12 employees who depend on him, he said, and he’s continually working to improve the business and make it better.
“We understand that this family is mourning and that needs to happen. We are mourning for Corbin as well,” Yates said. “We miss him and appreciate everything about him; that’s why we hired him.”