The Bogalusa Police Department and International Paper officials are investigating the accidental death of a mill employee Wednesday evening.
Paul Fornea, 41, “apparently drove a piece of heavy equipment into a hole in an area with which he was unfamiliar,” Police Chief Joe Culpepper that night.
Mill officials said Fornea, of Stateline, was a power plant employee, and that the accident occurred near the bark storage area in the mill.
“Paul was a valued and respected member of our Bogalusa team and was an employee at our mill for more than 20 years,” said Communications Manager Kalisa Hyman. “Appropriate agencies have been notified of the incident, and we are cooperating with them to determine the cause of death.
“Our heartfelt condolences are with Paul’s family.”
On Thursday, BPD Assistant Chief Gene Crosby said police got the call to the mill at approximately 8 p.m., and upon arrival four minutes later found Northshore Emergency Medical Services already on site.
“It looks like it was just a terrible accident,” he said. “He was driving a front-end loader and went into a hole that had water in it, so we’re not sure if the cause of death was drowning or if he hit his head.”
Crosby said mill employees had gotten the loader out of the hole, broke out its window with a sledgehammer and tried, unsuccessfully, to revive Fornea, who was not breathing.
Grief counseling is being made available to mill employees through the company’s Employee Assistance Program, Hyman said.
Mill Manager Bernie Chascin expressed his sympathy.
“We are deeply saddened by Paul’s death as our friend and team member,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Paul’s family and friends.”
The investigation is ongoing, and Thursday Hyman said she had nothing new to report.