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Santa Paula Man, 39, Fatally Hit by Forklift at Naval Base

Accident: He had been driving the equipment shortly before another employee took over. The Navy and OSHA have opened investigations.


A 39-year-old longshoreman from Santa Paula died Tuesday morning after being struck by a forklift at Naval Base Ventura County.

According to base officials, Richard Lopez Jr., a contract worker for Stevedoring Services of America, had been using a forklift to load and unload military cargo on Wharf 3 from the motor vessel Greenpoint.

Shortly before the accident, he got off the forklift and someone else began driving it, base officials said. Lopez was struck by the forklift about 8:45 a.m.

Base emergency response teams arrived shortly after the incident, but Lopez was declared dead at the scene. The Ventura County coroner's office said Lopez died of multiple crushing injuries.

Naval Criminal Investigative Services and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating. Base spokeswoman Sarah Burford said it was unclear how long Lopez had worked at the base.

Such industrial accidents are uncommon, but not unheard of, in Ventura County. In April 2001, a 79-year-old farm labor contractor was killed after being run over by a forklift driven by another employee. And in December 2000, an Oxnard man was killed when a tractor he was riding flipped on a horse trail in Santa Rosa Valley.

"It's not real common, but we do see this on occasion, especially in ports and construction sites where there's a lot of activity and a lot of noise," said Dean Fryer, a spokesman for Cal / OSHA. "Sometimes a person operating a piece of equipment doesn't see a person."

Burford said the naval base was providing grief counseling for Lopez's family.

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