Authorities are investigating whether a tree that killed a Calaveras County Public Works employee on Monday in a rural area south of Mokelumne Hill was previously removed by workers as a part of winter storm cleanup work in the Butte Fire burn scar.
Michael Mohler, a deputy director with Cal Fire in Sacramento, said county employees and members of Cal Fire were involved in a joint operation on Doster Road Monday to conduct forest thinning and tree falling.
It’s not yet known if the large tree-sized log that rolled down a hill and killed 57-year-old Ansel John Bowman, a road maintenance worker with the county for over 10 years, was felled by workers prior to the accident or if it had already fallen, Mohler said.
“The focus is with the family,” he said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Our job as an agency is to work closely with the family and give them as much closure as possible.”
Calaveras County Deputy Keith Rosa with the coroner’s office said Bowman’s official cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries due to a rollover by a large tree.
Cal Fire initiated a Serious Action Review Team (SART) to investigate the accident because Cal Fire employees were present on the work site, Mohler said.
Mohler said he did not know how many Cal Fire employees were there.
On Tuesday, members of SART were on the 8300 block of Doster Road near West Murray Creek Road recording data using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) technology to measure the accident site.
“We will take it down to within inches of times, distance, space and elevation,” Mohler said.
SART is tasked with determining what went wrong and how to prevent accidents in the future, he added.
They are expected to produce a publicly available accident investigation report called a Cal Fire Green Sheet within the next several weeks, though there is no set timetable, he said.
Sgt. Greg Stark, public information officer for the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office, said the work on Doster Road on Monday was to process and remove woody debris in the Butte Fire burn scar impacted by winter storms.
The Butte Fire burned approximately 70,868 acres in Amador and Calaveras Counties in September through October 2015, resulting in two deaths and the loss of more than 900 structures, according to Cal Fire..
Frank Polizzi with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Cal/OSHA investigators were at the site of the accident on Tuesday to identify if there were workplace safety and health violations.
“All of these entities with communicate because everybody will have a set of eyes” based on their expertise, Mohler said.
Joshua Pack, Calaveras County director of Public Works and Transportation, did not respond to emailed requests for comment. He previously referred media inquiries to the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office.
Bowman was hired by Public Works as an extra hire in 2007 before becoming a permanent employee in 2008. As a road maintenance worker with the brushing crew, he was tasked with removing debris and clearing section of county roads.
The accident was reported at 10:20 a.m. Monday with Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office deputies, medical staff and fire department employees responding, but Bowman was pronounced dead at the scene.