State investigating employee fatality at Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Camas

Dakota A. Cline, 32, died March 8 after becoming entangled in industrial packaging machine

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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 Sgt. Chuck Nadgwick reported Monday that a 32-year-old man had died in “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 said.

On Tuesday, March 11, the Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the employee as Dakota Austin Cline of Hazel Dell and said Cline 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, which is “near the very end of the 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 “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. “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 opened an investigation into Cline’s death Saturday, March 9.

“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 may visit the Camas mill to interview employees and gather information.

If the state finds the mill violated safety protocols or that it put 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 Camas mill employees did not return calls from The Post-Record in time for this newspaper’s print deadline.