UPDATED: State investigating death at Camas paper mill

Dakota Cline, 32, of Hazel Dell, died March 8 after becoming entangled in industrial machine

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The Georgia-Pacific paper mill is viewed Friday, March 17, 2023, from a former employee parking lot located off Northwest Seventh Avenue in downtown Camas. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 5:36 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, 2024, to reflect new information, including the name of the employee and cause of death. 

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is investigating an industrial workplace death at the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in downtown Camas.

Camas police said this week that a 32-year-old man died in what police referred to as “an unfortunate workplace accident” at the Camas paper mill around 5 p.m. Friday, March 8. 

First-responders from the Camas Police Department and the Camas-Washougal Fire Department discovered the employee dead at the scene, Nadgwick reported. 

On Tuesday, March 11, the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that the employee was 32-year-old Dakota Austin Cline of Hazel Dell, and said he had died of blunt trauma to the head, neck and torso after accidentally becoming entangled in an industrial machine at the paper mill. 

Georgia-Pacific Public Affairs Manager Kristi Ward said this week that Cline was “a valued team member” hired in 2022 to work in the mill’s Unitizing department “near the very end of (the mill’s) process for packaging finished product for shipment.” 

Ward said Cline had worked on the machine involved in his death for the past three months. 

Asked about safety protocols and training for the unitizing department machines, Ward said Georgia-Pacific values safety and “has extensive safety protocols” that include training on specific machines before employees are able to operate the equipment. 

“This is devastating for his family and friends and the Camas (mill) team,” Ward told The Post-Record this week. “We have had grief counselors on site in the mill, and we have been meeting with department team members.”
Ward said the mill’s paper machine and steam plant remain open, but the Unitizing and Converting departments have shut down temporarily during the investigation into Cline’s death. 

Matt Ross, the public affairs manager for the state’s L&I department, said this week that the state has opened an investigation into Cline’s death. 

“The investigation can take up to six months from the time of opening,” Ross said. “After closing the investigation, we do release the results … and will post the results to our website.”

Ross said L&I investigators could visit the Camas mill to interview employees and gather information. 

If the state finds the mill violated safety protocols or puts employees in harm’s way, L&I could impose fines on the Georgia-Pacific mill. 

“It really depends on the circumstances,” Ross said. 

A spokesperson for the union representing mill employees had not returned calls from The Post-Record in time for this newspaper’s print deadline.