Police reports shed light on fatality at Camas paper mill

Celebration of Life set for Dakota Cline; GoFundMe raises over $16K

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category icon Camas, Latest News, News, Public Safety
The Georgia-Pacific paper mill is pictured in downtown Camas in 2018. A mill employee, Dakota Cline, 32, died March 8, 2024, after becoming entangled in one of the mill’s packaging machines. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

Police reports filed in the wake of a March 8 fatality inside the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Camas, shed light on what may have happened in the moments leading up to the death of 32-year-old mill employee Dakota Cline.

According to a police report filed by Camas Police Sergeant Brian Salwasser, Cline was working alone on a machine that had reportedly been having issues earlier in the day when the incident occurred.

Other mill employees told Salwasser that they were operating equipment “upstream” from Cline’s machine in a separate building approximately 300 yards from the building where Cline was operating a machine involved in the plant’s packing process. The other employees would put boxes of product onto a conveyor belt and then Cline was tasked with operating a machine that organized the boxes onto pallets and then wrapped them in plastic for shipping.

According to the police report, Cline had been having issues with the machine — a Georgia-Pacific spokesperson said earlier this month that Cline had been fully trained on the machine and had been operating it for the past three months prior to his death on March 8.

The employees Salwasser interviewed said the machine where Cline was working was “having issues” earlier that day and that they had spoken to Cline around 4:07 p.m. Friday, March 8. When the employees noticed boxes “getting backed up on the conveyor belt,” around 4:30 p.m., they waited 15 minutes and then decided to check on Cline, according to the police report.

“They took a buggy into (Cline’s) building, entering through the ramp on the north side of the building … parked and walked between the two packing machines,” the report noted.

That is when, according to Salwasser’s report, the mill workers saw Cline entangled in the packaging machine. The police report stated that Cline was dead when police arrived at the scene, and that mill employees had erected a temporary barrier to help shield Cline’s body from onlookers.

Police say the two employees who discovered Cline’s body immediately left the scene of the accident to alert security staff, who called for assistance from local police and emergency medical services.

One of the employees who discovered Cline’s body later told police there were safety measures in place and that Cline had a key to shut down the machine’s power supply before accessing the equipment.

“It appeared obvious (to this employee) that (Cline) failed to do this,” Salwasser wrote in his report.

Camas Police Officer Casey Handley also responded to the scene with Salwasser. In a separate report, Handley noted that “Georgia-Pacific staff were just shutting the machine (involved in Cline’s death) down fully” when the Camas police officer walked into the building where Cline worked.

Handley spoke to one of Cline’s supervisors and was told that Cline had been working in the building alone, which the supervisor said was normal.

The supervisor told the officer that, for the accident to have happened the way it did, Cline would have “had to bypass the security procedure and walk beyond the gate that surrounds the packing machine,” according to Handley’s report. “(The supervisor) added employees are supposed to shut the machine down and lock it before entering the gated area and working on the machine.”

Cline’s direct supervisor later told Handley that Cline had called her at 4:07 p.m. on Friday, March 8, less than an hour before his death, and said there had been “a crash” with the packaging machine he was operating.

“I was informed they were having issues with their machine all day,” Handley stated in his report.

The supervisor told Handley she had instructed Cline to contact another supervisor for help with the machine.

The direct supervisor also informed Handley that Cline had “a troubled history with substance abuse” and had been in recovery treatment.

Handley’s report noted that Cline’s supervisors said they had been trying to help him with his recovery and were “trying to get him a new sponsor and help” through an employee-assistance program.

Eventually, Camas Police Sergeant Stefan Hausinger and Detective Gary Manning arrived on the scene and took over the investigation, Handley stated.

Hausinger’s report includes an interview with John Busby, the mill’s operations manager, who told police the machine on which Cline was working has “sensors along the edges of the conveyor system, which are triggered by the boxes moving by them” and that communicate with the machine to maneuver the large metal “arms” that help feed the boxes through the packing machine.

“If an employee wanted to enter the caged area where this packaging equipment was kept, they needed to perform a lockout procedure,” to turn off the machine’s power and “pin the mechanical arms in question in an upward position before working around the equipment,” Hausinger noted in their report. “Busby told me none of these safety checks were done, and this was verified by the employees who found Cline.”

Busby told police he believed Cline may have “inadvertently tripped one of the sensors, causing the arms to come down on him due to the arms not being pinned up … and the power still (being) on,” Hausinger stated in the report.

After Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office staff arrived to transport Cline’s body, police removed the contents of Cline’s pockets and, according to Hausinger’s report, found “a plastic sandwich baggie rolled up with a white powdery substance inside.”

Later that evening, at the Camas Police Department, Hausinger and Manning weighed the substance at 2.7 grams and performed a field test, which showed the substance had “a presumptive positive test for the presence of fentanyl,” Hausinger reported.

In his report, Manning noted that Cline’s direct supervisor had talked to Cline earlier in the day and said he “was in good spirits.”

“Earlier in the day, Cline had called her and told her both sides of the machinery were down,” Manning stated in his report, referring to Cline’s direct supervisor. “The A side had ‘crashed’ earlier, due to boxes coming down together and not (separating), which causes a mess,” Manning stated in his report. “She stated that Cline told her he cleared off the line so he could work on that side.”

When the machine started having issues again, Cline called the supervisor and she told police that she instructed Cline “to just take his time and get in contact (with another supervisor) to help him,” Manning stated in the report. “He then told her the computer did something weird and might be glitching because it (was) working again. She stated Cline sounded as if he was managing the problem with the machines. She stated that he sounded … happy (and) didn’t sound stressed or emotional.”

Georgia-Pacific Public Affairs Manager Kristi Ward told The Post-Record Cline was “a valued team member” hired in 2022, who had worked on the machine involved in his death for the past three months.

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 said. “We have had grief counselors on site in the mill.”

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is investigating the March 8 workplace fatality inside the Camas paper mill.

Memorial for Cline set for April 6; GoFundMe raises over $16K

Cline’s family and friends will host a memorial service to honor Cline’s life, April 6, in Vancouver.

Members of the local mill workers’ union have established an online fundraiser to help support Cline’s family and cover funeral expenses.

“In this moment of profound sorrow, we come together to support the family of Dakota Cline,” a valued member of the Local 5 Camas, who lost his life in a tragic workplace accident,” Aaron Boedeker, a local leader with the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Local 5 union that represents Camas paper mill workers, stated in a GoFundMe fundraiser for Cline’s family.

“This fundraiser, organized by the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, seeks to alleviate the financial burdens of funeral costs and support his family in the difficult months ahead, honoring Dakota’s memory with the respect and dignity he deserves,” Boedeker stated on the online fundraiser page ( “Every donation is a gesture of solidarity, offering comfort and assistance to his loved ones. We deeply appreciate your kindness and generosity during this difficult time.”

As of Monday, March 25, the GoFundMe had raised $16,347 and had surpassed its original $15,000 goal.

Those who wish to celebrate and honor Cline’s life are invited to a memorial service beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at RV inn Style Resorts Convention Center, 7607 N.E. 26th Ave., Vancouver.

AWPPW union representatives had not responded to requests for comment by this newspaper’s print deadline.