A man who was visiting his friend in Westfall on March 12 ended up seeing his friend and another man die that day as the result of being crushed by heavy machinery. Because the accident happened on a work site, Oregon OSHA is involved in the investigation, which could take as long as three or four months, according to an email from Aaron Corvin, spokesman.
Malheur County Sheriff Wolfe, who was among those who responded to the call at about 8:45 a.m. that Friday, said the caller indicated that two people were possibly trapped under the tracks of an excavator.
The sheriff and deputies responded to the scene, arriving simultaneously with Vale Fire and Ambulance and Life Flight, however, the men were already dead, and it appeared they had died immediately.
According to Wolfe, Greg Quant, 57, of Burns was operating the excavator. He had just finished up some work for Roger Wheeler, of Westfall, who went down to the area to talk to him after the job was finished.
When Quant was standing on the tracks “either getting out or back in, that part is unclear, it appears as if he hit the safety lever and the excavator engaged into gear,” Wolfe said.
When it engaged it was in gear and threw him to the ground, according to the sheriff, who said the witness believed that Wheeler had jumped down in an effort to save Quant when he machine ran over both of them.
The heavy equipment was a John Deer 225 D excavator, weighing 25 tons, Wolfe said.
“It was a very, very unfortunate incident,” Wolfe said. “Both men were well-known in their respective communities. They were both good, hard-working men, just doing their jobs and it appears as if a mistake was made.”
OSHA investigators came out from Bend that day, Wolfe said.
The last time someone died in a heavy equipment accident in Malheur County was when Gary Kamo, of Vale, died in April 22, 2020, after he was crushed while operating a track-hoe while working on a property in Ontario. In that instance, it was believed Kamo may have “bumped a lever,” accidentally engaging the machinery.