Safety and OSHA News

Teen killed in wood chipper; guardian faces criminal charges

A business owner in Virginia faces criminal charges in connection with the death of a 14-year-old in a wood chipper. The owner was also the teen’s uncle and guardian.

Frank Gornick was pushing debris into the chipper with a shovel on Nov. 22, 2009, when he was pulled into the machine. He died instantly.

He was working with two adult employees of Old Dominion Tree and Lawn Care of Poquoson, VA. They were away from the chipper when the machine pulled Gornick in.

Robert Strickland owns the company. Gornick, along with his twin sister and an older brother, had lived with Strickland, their uncle, and his wife following the death of their parents.

A grand jury handed up a felony charge of child cruelty and a misdemeanor charge of “employer safety violation resulting in death.” Strickland is due to appear in court on Nov. 18 when a trial date will be set.

The cruelty charge is based on child labor laws. Virginia child labor laws prohibit anyone under 18 from operating any power woodworking machine.

Virginia’s Occupational Safety and Health Compliance Department fined Old Dominion $185,500 for 20 violations. The company has contested the violations and hasn’t paid the fines.

A TV station interviewed a neighbor of Strickland who said the charges are over the top. The neighbor says the personal loss is overwhelming for Strickland and the criminal charges are too much.

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