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Equipment misuse may have led to snow removal worker's death

Officials say an accident that killed a Grand Forks man Saturday while he working with a snow-removal crew may have been the result of improper equipment use.

Robert J. Coons, 61, was standing in the bucket of a skid loader on the 600 block of High Plains Court when he slipped off and fell under the vehicle at 3:05 a.m., Lt. Derik Zimmel said. Officers tried to revive Coons with CPR but he died on scene.

Grand Forks Police released his identity Monday.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Zimmel said no foul play is suspected and the accident may have occurred because Coons was too comfortable with the equipment.

“I think it’s safe to say we all, in our own respects, achieve some kind of a comfort level where we kind of take some shortcuts with things that are familiar to us and I think this might have just been one of those times,” he said.

Michael Hernandez, who works as a crew leader for Executive Properties, said he’s seen snow crews take risks that put them in danger several times during his 10 years in the industry. He said crews work long hours in the snow, often overnight and some crew members get tired and try to take shortcuts to get the job done faster.

“People just get too comfortable with it and take little shortcuts like that,” he said.

Hernandez stressed that it’s important to always follow safety precautions and proper procedures when using equipment to prevent being hurt.

Zimmel said Coons worked for a private snow removal company, Team Lawn and Landscape.

Emily Allen

Allen joined the Grand Forks Herald to cover local government and politics May 2018. Call her at 701-780-1102, email her at or follow her on Twitter, @Emily_theHerald.

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