PONOKA — A prominent Ponoka businessman is dead following an industrial accident early Thursday morning.
RCMP said Don Laing, 61, was found pinned beneath the rear wheel of a telescoping forklift at Don Laing Trailers west of Hwy 2 near Ponoka.
An employee of the business made the discovery at around 7:40 a.m.
“He was clearly deceased at the time he was found, due to the nature and the extent of his injuries,” said Cpl. Jim Lank of Ponoka RCMP.
Laing, who operated the family-owned business, was using the forklift — also called a Zoom Boom — to move concrete blocks, said police.
“Apparently he was going to unload some of these concrete blocks off of a flat deck trailer using the Zoom Boom,” said Lank.
“We believe it may have been in a (forward) gear and running. The emergency brake was reported to be off, not activated.”
A pallet of blocks was still on the forks of the forklift and the employee who found Laing said the machine was running when he arrived, said Lank.
It appears Laing got off the forklift and was between it and the trailer when he was run over after falling or being struck, he added.
An autopsy is scheduled for today to determine if a heart attack or some other health-related issue might have been a factor.
Police do not suspect foul play.
Chris Chodan, a spokesman for the Occupational Health and Safety division of Alberta Employment and Immigration, said Thursday afternoon that officers from his division were on scene investigating.
It was too early to comment on whether negligence or unsafe working conditions contributed to the incident, he said.
“We’re just at the early stages of the investigation, so we’re not sure yet.”
Forklift operators often work alone, said Lank.
Depending on loads and surface grade, they also often leave the machines running and in gear when disembarking.
“Putting it in neutral and setting the emergency brake would be the safer practice.”
Laing previously operated Don Laing Tractor and Used Parts Ranch at the same location, starting the farm equipment dealership around 1981 and adding the parts segment about six years later.
He closed Don Laing Tractor and Used Parts Ranch in May 2007, citing high labour costs and the depressed agricultural sector as reasons.
By September of the same year he had opened Don Laing Trailers, which sold a broad range of products, including horse trailers, ATV trailers, flatbed trailers, sled trailers and cargo trailers.
Don Laing Trailers has a second outlet at Crossfield.