Local News

Friday, Nov 16 2012 06:27 AM

Cal-OSHA to investigate accidental death at desert test track

BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Cal-OSHA has begun an investigation into the death of a 55-year-old Tehachapi man who died Thursday morning when a tree fell on him at the Hyundai Test track in California City.

The man was identified late Friday evening by the California City Police Department as Richard Dobrozdravic.

Cal-OSHA spokesman Greg Siggins said the tree apparently fell as it was being carried or moved by a backhoe operator.

A spokeswoman for Hyundai Motors America said the victim was not a Hyundai employee, but was working in a landscaping capacity for an independent contractor at the sprawling automotive proving grounds in the Mojave Desert.

Siggins said he was an employee of Kett Engineering in Van Nuys. According to its website, Kett's core services include "proving ground operations, staffing and management."

Cal-OSHA, according to state law, has six months to complete its investigation, Siggins said. The process will likely include interviews of Kett employees and the examination of maintenance records to determine whether the equipment used was properly maintained and whether employees were sufficiently trained in their operation and in general safety practices.

Kett's Santa Monica location was the subject of a Cal-OSHA investigation in 2004, which involved an employee who suffered a severed finger, according to Siggins. The investigation resulted in four citations and initial fines equalling approximately $10,000.

Following an appeals process, Kett ended up paying about $5,400, he said.

Kett's Van Nuys office did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

According to news releases from the California City Police Department, California City and Kern County firefighters responded at 7:30 a.m. Thursday to reports that a man at the track was trapped under a tree.

The worker, later identified as Dobrozdravic, was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Meanwhile Cal-OSHA has issued an order prohibiting the use of the Hyundai-owned backhoe to ensure it remains in its current working condition until investigators have a chance to inspect it, Siggins said.

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