A former professional hockey player from Grand Rapids, Scot Kleinendorst, 59, was badly injured and fighting for his life following a heavy machinery accident at the town's paper mill, UPM Blandin, over the weekend.
According to a report from the Grand Rapids Police Department, officers were dispatched at 5:55 p.m. to Blandin Paper Company. The call stated a crane tipped over and the operator had broke through the window and fell to the ground. The responding officer said it appeared the machinery tipped into an embankment onto or just over a railroad track and Kleinendorst possibly hit his head on the crane’s large mechanical metal arm. Blandin staff advised officers that no one witnessed the accident directly. A medical helicopter was dispatched to the scene due to the seriousness of the injury.
"Although it is still under investigation, there was an accident while Scot was operating a piece of heavy machinery at UPM," the family wrote on a CaringBridge page. "He suffered multiple traumatic injuries, including very serious trauma to the brain. Scot was airlifted to Duluth and eventually stabilized after many blood transfusions. After he was stabilized, he went into emergency surgery to relieve the life-threatening hemorrhage on the left side of his brain."
The family said Kleinendorst "pulled through" the surgery on his brain. He also suffered many broken bones in the accident.
The company issued a statement to the Duluth News Tribune, reiterating that Kleinendorst was stabilized and flown to a Duluth trauma center by helicopter.
"We are all shocked by this tragic incident and our immediate thoughts are with our employee and family," UPM Blandin spokesperson Marsha Miller said. "We are in contact with the family and will support the family as much as possible in this difficult situation."
The state office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the investigation.
"Minnesota OSHA Compliance is handling the reported serious-injury at Blandin through a non-formal complaint letter to the employer," OSHA spokesperson Jenny O'Brien told the News Tribune.
Blandin, which reported the incident, has seven days to respond. If Minnesota OSHA Compliance is satisfied with the response, "the incident is closed," O'Brien said, and the letter becomes available to the public record. There will be no on-site investigation for now, she confirmed.
"The safety of our employees is a cornerstone of our culture and firmly embedded in our everyday processes," Miller said. "We are working to analyze the accident and its potential root causes. Any incident is one too many and we will always make safety our top priority."
Kleinendorst played in the National Hockey League from 1982-90, appearing in 281 games for the Hartford Whalers, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. He played collegiately at Providence University after starring at Grand Rapids High School, where he was first team All-State defenseman in 1977-78 and part of a state championship team in 1976.
Describing a long road ahead, the family said, "We are grateful for all your love and prayers and are happy to send updates along the way."