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Woman dies in accident at sugar factory

A 28-year-old woman was killed in a Saturday incident at the Western Sugar Cooperative factory in Lovell.

Anfesa “Ky” Galaktionoff of the Deaver area was killed after falling into a lift station that carries sugar beets into the factory, Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn told the Lovell Chronicle.

Emergency responders — summoned to the facility at 9 p.m. Saturday after Galaktionoff went missing — worked through the night to recover the factory employee’s body from the water system.

“This appears to be a very tragic accident,” Blackburn said in a  press release.

The sheriff’s office and the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration are investigating the worker’s death, as is Western Sugar itself. The company called it a sad day.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of those impacted (and) the employees,” said Kent Wimmer, a spokesman for Western Sugar at its Denver headquarters. “We continue to be committed to be working cooperatively with all the authorities to identify and resolve any outstanding issues.”

The company said in a Monday afternoon statement that its focus is on supporting its employees — including offering counseling to Lovell plant workers — and comforting the family of the deceased.

“Western Sugar places the highest value on the safety of its employees,” the company said in the statement. Western Sugar said it’s also “monitoring operations at all of its facilities in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and Wyoming to assure they are running safely.”

The beet end of the factory was shut down while the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office investigated and was cleared to resume operations Sunday morning, Wimmer said.

Hayley McKee, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, said an OSHA inspector arrived in Lovell on Monday for the agency’s investigation.

As per federal law, the investigation will be completed within six months, McKee said.

OSHA records show a Western Sugar employee died in a 2004 incident at one of the cooperative’s facilities in Greeley, Colo. In that instance, an employee was helping unload sugar beets from a truck when the worker was pulled into or fell into a conveyor system, an OSHA report found.

Western Sugar was penalized $36,000 for six violations of OSHA rules in connection with that incident, agency records show.

Wyoming had 21 occupational deaths in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.

Sheriff Blackburn didn’t return the Tribune’s phone calls by press time Monday.

A memorial service for Galaktionoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday at Haskell Funeral Home in Lovell.

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