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Covington man killed in accident at Pratt Industries

CONYERS — An employee with Pratt Industries in Conyers has died as a result of an apparent industrial accident Wednesday.

According to Rockdale County Deputy Coroner Michael Siebert, the employee, 31-year-old Charles LeMasters of Covington, was operating a machine that feeds wood chips onto a conveyor belt and into a facility for processing when his right arm got trapped.

“His right hand got trapped in the conveyor belt and he was pulled into the roller point,” Siebert said. “He had some pretty critical injuries to his arm, shoulder and back where the conveyor belt rubbed him.”

Siebert said it appears the victim suffocated in the wood chips.

He said it is not known how long the man was trapped before he was found. Apparently, the man had been missing for a time and other employees attempted to contact him by radio. When they couldn’t reach him, they searched the area and found the man’s body, Siebert said.

The Conyers Police Department was called to the scene around 6:30 p.m., said CPD Officer Kim Lucas. The Coroner’s Office was called around 7 p.m.

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the family,” said a Pratt spokesman. “This is a very sad day for all of our employees.”

Lindsay Williams, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Labor, said representatives with the Department of Labor and OSHA were at Pratt Industries Thursday morning and had opened an investigation into the incident.

The Pratt Industries campus is located between Sarasota Business Parkway and Sigman Road. The company was founded in Australia and entered the U.S. market in 1988 when it located its headquarters in Conyers. According to the company’s website, Pratt Industries is the sixth largest paper and packaging company in the U.S., and has locations throughout the country.

Earlier this year, Pratt Industries began collecting solid waste and recycling for about 3,500 households in Conyers as part of a long-term public-private partnership between the company and the city.

Pratt pays the city $4 per ton for refuse received at both the transfer station and the material recovery facility, or a minimum of $15,000 per month. Pratt also agreed to purchase the city’s sanitation equipment for a total of $444,600.

Any recoverable paper entering the transfer station is sorted and gasified to generate energy through Pratt’s clean energy program. The energy is used to fuel Pratt’s paper-making operations.