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92 people died on the job last year in Washington state. Photo by John Ryan.

92 people died on the job last year in Washington state. Photo by John Ryan.


Remembering Washington's Fallen Workers

John Ryan

I'm John Ryan for KUOW News. If today is a typical day, a dozen Americans will be killed on the job. About 9,000 workers will be injured.

Last year, one workplace accident in Washington made national news. It killed seven people.

Bloomberg News Anchor: "We want to update you once again on that explosion at a Tesoro refinery in Anacortes, Washington."

But most people who die on the job get much less attention.

Governor Chris Gregoire presided over a memorial ceremony this spring. It individually honored all 92 Washingtonians who didn't make it home from work last year.

To wrap up our "Danger At Work" series, here's an audio postcard from that ceremony.


Announcer: "Daniel J. Aldridge [bell tolls]. Alejandro Alvarez, Jr. [bell tolls]. Clifford W. Apley [bell tolls]."

Diana Ryland: "Cliff Apley, he's my brother, a cedar mill worker that died last May down in Elma. I'm Diana Ryland. I'm from Olympia. Cliff, he was working on a D–4 Caterpillar, and he was ejected from the seat and he was run over by the Caterpillar. It was exactly one month away from his 50th birthday. He has three daughters, six grandkids and a mother and father.

"His employer hadn't gone over the safety precautions that my brother should have used. It was just a terrible accident. No one was directly at fault, but now he's gone, and you can't bring him back."

Announcer: "Kathryn D. Powell [bell tolls]."

Judy Schurke: "Last year, the tragedy at Tesoro was the worst industrial disaster in Washington in many years. Seven workers died there. One family mentioned their daughter's thousand–watt smile. I'll bet you if you look in that brochure, you'll find her right away: KD Powell."

Ken Powell: "She had a smile that was contagious. Her life was a blessing to us. Like most typical teenagers, she had her teenage problems, but she finally found her niche. She loved her job and she loved to volunteer and help people. That's why she was in part of that group that night: She volunteered to go help. We don't know the whys and the hows and all this, that and the other. But we know she was taken away from us at an early age [bell tolls]."

Marie Youngs: "My name is Marie Youngs. My husband was Jesse F. Youngs, deputy chief, Seattle Fire. He had a glioblastoma tumor. It's a primary brain cancer, very aggressive. Six months, we lost him. There are 11 cancers that firefighters are more susceptible to than you and I — the chemicals that they have to face. Years ago, masks weren't required. Since then, the rules have changed, better protected. He was a 32–year firefighter."

Governor Chris Gregoire: "The fallen workers that we honor here today were firefighters and police officers who faced danger every day and knew that they did. But they were also pastors and schoolteachers, surgeons, mechanics, retail clerks and custodians. Everyone goes to work each day expecting at the end of that day, they're going to come home. Sadly, that was not the case for the men and women that we honor here today."

Sound: (Bagpipes)

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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