A 39-year-old worker died after falling into a molten iron vat of 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit molten – leaving half of his body lying on the floor.
Steven Dierkes, of Peoria, Illinois, died instantly after he was presumably working alongside a crucible when he fell in, according to Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood.
Harwood said the Thursday incident – which took place at the Caterpillar Mapleton Foundry – was accidental and no foul play is suspected, the Peoria Journal Star reports.
Deputies were called to the facility around 10 a.m. on Thursday morning in regards to an “occupational accident,” Peoria County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Chris Watkins said.
Caterpillar spokeswoman Lisa Miller released the following statement to The Sun: “We are deeply saddened by the death of an employee who was involved in a serious incident at our Mapleton, Illinois, facility on June 2.
“Our thoughts are with this employee’s family, friends and colleagues.
“The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority.”
Dierkes’ death remains under investigation by the Peoria County Coroner’s office, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
A veteran Caterpillar worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), that Dierkes “was taking a sample of iron for the met lab and apparently just tripped.”
The unidentified worker explained: “He died instantly, but not all of him went in. Part of his body remained on the deck for the coroner to retrieve.
“It must have been ghastly for those folks that witnessed it and to wait for the coroner with half of their coworker lying on the floor.”
The worker, called Ron to protect his identity claims “the death occurred on one of the large melters in the main foundry melting area.”
Ron was unable to report on the conditions of the foundry melting area.
“I don’t know what time it happened but by 10:20 a.m. the entire facility was sent home,” the worker said.
Another employee claimed on social media that Dierkes had “only been there for five days” and didn’t have “sufficient training” to be on the iron floor, according to WSWS.
An obituary for Dierkes, via PJ Star, notes the worker passed away at 9:23 a.m. from a “workplace accident.”
A service celebrating his life will take place on June 9, 2022, at noon in Bloomington, Illinois.
He is survived by his life partner Jessica Sutter and their three daughters.
Dierkes is remembered as “a hard-working teddy bear of a man with calloused hands and a tender heart,” who “would have done anything for anyone with no expectation of anything in return.
The dad-of-three’s death comes six months after another deadly fall at the Mapleton foundry.
In December 2021, 50-year-old Scott M. Adams also took a fatal plunge in the factory. It is believed Adams stepped off a ladder before falling through a hole in the floor.
Following Adams’ incident, Caterpillar released a statement to NBC Chicago saying an investigation was underway and the company was “deeply saddened.”
The company said: “Our thoughts are with the worker’s family, friends and colleagues.”
The Mapleton Foundry is described on Caterpillar’s website as “one of the largest in the United States.”
Caterpillar explains: “It can melt up to 1,000 tons of iron each day to produce finished castings ranging from 15lb liners to 22,000lb cylinder blocks.”
“These components are the foundation for the company’s 115-6,600hp (86- 4,920 kW) engine platforms,” the company adds.
“The facility ships an average of 150,000 tons of finished product each year.”
This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.