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Santa Rosa Contractor Fatally Crushed While Removing Wildfire Debris

PETALUMA (KPIX 5) -- The wine country wildfires have claimed another victim.

This one, a clean-up worker.

Truck driver Ezekiel Jackson Sumner Jr. was killed over the weekend, when he was hit by his own truck.

It happened at Sonoma County's central landfill on Mecham Road in Petaluma.

Santa Rosa truck driver Cynthia Rogers said, "We all feel so bad."

Rogers heard the news from a fellow truck driver on Monday morning.

Sumner, a 60-year-old man from Paradise, in Butte County, ended up pinned under his truck Friday afternoon at the Republic Services Landfill.

Sumner, known as 'Jay,' was dropping off debris from the wildfires when he found himself trapped under his truck unable to escape.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"On top of working so many hours, on top of the disaster, we felt so bad for his family and he was just out here trying to help," Rogers said.

The California Highway Patrol, Army Corps of Engineers and Cal-OSHA are all conducting individual investigations into exactly what happened.

CHP Officer Jon Sloat said, "The truck had been backed up to attach to a trailer and the driver was found under the truck."

Sumner was hauling wildfire debris to the landfill in a truck belonging to RHC Equipment
and arrived at the landfill around 4:45 p.m., Sloat said.

A landfill employee noticed Sumner's truck idling in the middle of a large open area around 5:55 p.m., Sloat said. The truck's tires were smoking, the truck was in gear and had backed into its own trailer.

The landfill employee put the truck in neutral and applied the parking brake, Sloat said. The employee noticed Sumner was underneath and behind the vehicle's left rear tires.

It appears Sumner was reattaching his trailer to the back of his truck when the vehicle ran over him, Sloat said.

The truck was impounded and the CHP is investigating mechanical failure, human error or both as causes of Sumner's death.

Firefighters with the Rancho Adobe Fire Protection District responded to the landfill at about 6 p.m., fire Capt. Bill Adams said. Sumner was found outside the truck in a staging area on top of a compost pile, Adams said.

Sumner was pronounced dead at 6:15 p.m.

Sumner was working for a subcontractor of AshBritt, a company that is removing debris from October wildfire sites in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake counties for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to officials with the Corps.

All AshBritt crews were told to stand down Saturday so safety procedures could be reviewed and training could be conducted, Corps officials said.

Debris removal came to a stop Saturday. Instead, workers were required to attend four hours of safety training.

Sloat said, "We have a lot of these trucks around the area removing debris, so we want as comprehensive of an investigation as we can perform."

AshBritt is a Florida-based company that's been accused of unsafe practices in previous disasters.

As KPIX 5 reported two weeks ago, Santa Rosa city officials were concerned AshBritt wasn't taking safety concerns seriously.

Most drivers believe what happened to Sumner was not his fault.

"I think it may have been a malfunction," Rogers said.

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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