Mill shut down as mark of respect

THE Proserpine sugar mill was shut down for 24 hours earlier this week as a mark of respect to employee John Erikson.
THE Proserpine sugar mill was shut down for 24 hours earlier this week as a mark of respect to employee John Erikson.

THE Proserpine sugar mill was shut down for 24 hours earlier this week as a mark of respect to employee John Erikson who died as a result of injuries sustained on site on Sunday morning.

The 46-year-old plant operator had worked at the mill for four years and received multiple injuries after he was struck by empty cane bins leaving the tippler at about 10am.

Mr Erikson arrived in the Whitsundays in June 2001. He was living the dream with his new custom Harley and his Buell motorbike.

He loved the water, boats and fishing and he was looking forward to getting his new big boat.

He had a passion for electrical work and driving and operating machinery and he loved working at the mill as well as driving taxis and working as a security officer.

On his days off, he liked to go for a ride on his Harley and watching movies.

His partner Rj Addison and step-daughter Taila Gregson (who he always introduced as his daughter) described him as a man with a heart of gold who was caring and funny.

"He touched the hearts of others through humour, a bit of stirring and lots of love," Taila said.

"We were a close family and every moment of our lives together was full of laughter, happiness and love," she said.

Rj said John loved having a laugh with his mates and valued their friendship.

"He had so much pride, love and joy for his friends and family."

After Sunday's accident, Mr Erikson was transported to the Mackay Base Hospital for treatment but he died that afternoon.

Operations were temporarily suspended immediately after the incident, but resumed a few hours later after police had assessed and cleared the scene in consultation with the Workplace Health and Safety Division.

Sucrogen's cane products executive general manager Craig Doyle said upon news of Mr Erikson's passing, plans were put in place to safely shut the factory down for 24 hours from 9am on Monday.

"As soon as we had made that decision we stopped the growers from harvesting so we could shut down for the day," he said.

Mr Doyle said investigations were conducted on site, involving police, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland representatives and internal personnel. "From the initial investigations it appears there's been no failure of equipment," he said.

Mr Doyle said Sucrogen would continue to support Mr Erikson's family and workmates during this difficult time.

"We're deeply saddened and offer condolences to the family, whom we're supporting and we'll be working through with the site staff and employees to ensure everyone remains safe. Obviously we're keeping a very, very close eye on the people who witnessed the event and his close workmates and friends," he said. "We're making sure we support them and that they've got access to counselling and anything else they need to get them through."

The 2012 cane harvesting season is expected to be finalised early next week, with less than 80,000 tonnes of cane left to harvest across the Proserpine district.

Mr Erikson's funeral will be held at the Metropole Hotel in Prosepine tomorrow (Friday) November 16 at 4pm.

Topics:  john erikson, proserpine sugar mill, sugar mill, sugar mill tragedy



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