HILL CITY, Minn. — Authorities have identified the contractor who died at a construction yard in Aitkin County associated with the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline project as Jorge Lopez Villafuerte.
Villafuerte, 45, of Utah, was run over by a forklift in the early morning of Dec. 18. He left behind nine children in Utah between ages 5 and 21, according to his obituary. He was born in Guanajuato, Mexico.
"A hard-working man, he did everything he could to provide for his children," the obituary said. "Though often out of town for work, he loved to spend time with them and was always eager to brag about his kids to anyone willing to listen."
The fatality occurred on 700 Airport Road in Hill City, according to a report from the Aitkin County Sheriff's Office. The deputy who responded concluded that the driver of the forklift was not impaired. The driver told law enforcement that Villafuerte was standing in a blind spot when the incident occurred. Villafuerte was dead by the time authorities arrived.
Witnesses told deputies that Villafuerte and a co-worker were at the Hill City construction yard to pick up materials.
Villafuerte was employed through Precision Pipeline, LLC, based in Eau Claire, Wis., according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA began an investigation on the fatality Dec. 18.
"The investigation is still ongoing, so Minnesota OSHA Compliance doesn’t have any other public information to provide currently," an OSHA spokesperson said.
Precision Pipeline is a general contractor for Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline reconstruction project. Work on the northern Minnesota stretch began in early December. The project is expected to bring in more than 4,000 workers to sites along the route.
The pipeline's 340-mile segment across northern Minnesota will help ferry oil between Alberta, Canada, and Superior. Construction on segments in Canada, North Dakota and Wisconsin is already complete.
In the last five years, OSHA has investigated more than 40 workplace deaths in Minnesota caused by equipment — the highest cause of workplace death in the state since 2016.