Man Dies After Falling Into 1400C Metal-Melting Container 5 Days Into His New Job: 'A Hard-Working Teddy Bear Of A Man'

Man Dies After Falling Into 1400C Metal-Melting Container 5 Days Into His New Job: 'A Hard-Working Teddy Bear Of A Man'

Dierkes was a welding college graduate who worked at the Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton, and a father to three daughters.

An Illinois man died instantly after tripping and partially falling into a vat of molten iron at the Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton last week, reported PEOPLE. Steven Matthew Dierkes, 39, died at about 9:30 a.m. on Thursday due to a "workplace accident," according to his obituary. A welding college graduate who loved the outdoors and animals, Dierkes was a doting father to three daughters, aged 4, 5, and 12. Dierkes celebrated his 39th birthday just a month before his death on June 2. "He was a loving person who enjoyed laughter from any source he could find. He was a hard-working teddy bear of a man with calloused hands and a tender heart," the obituary reads.



The Peoria Journal Star reported that Dierkes fell into a 1,400-degrees Celsius molten iron crucible at the foundry and that the death is being investigated by the local coroner's office, the Sheriff's office, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Credit: Steven Dierkes | Facebook


A spokesperson for the foundry, Lisa Miller, said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of an employee who was involved in a serious incident at our Mapleton, Illinois, facility on June 2.” She added, “Our thoughts are with this employee’s family, friends and colleagues. The safety of our employees, contractors, and visitors is our top priority.”

“He was taking a sample of iron for the met lab and apparently just tripped,” a worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). “He died instantly, but not all of him went in. Part of his body remained on the deck for the coroner to retrieve.” He said it must have “been ghastly for those folks that witnessed it and to wait for the coroner with half of their coworker lying on the floor”. He added, “I haven’t seen the melting area in years, let alone the melt deck itself, so I cannot report what conditions are like. Our melting area is physically connected but operationally independent. Word spread fast and people were gathering trying to find out what happened.”



A worker at the factory said in a social media post, according to the website, that Dierkes had been employed at the foundry for only five days and did not have “sufficient training” to be on the iron floor. The horrific death of the employee has raised questions over safety and health violations at the factory. Dierkes' death is not the first at the foundry in the last year, the Peoria Journal Star reported. The tragic incident follows the death of 50-year-old Scott Adams, an electrical contractor, who also died after falling in the foundry in 2021. More than six months after his death, the investigation is still underway. He allegedly fell 20 feet while climbing a ladder.


Cover image source: Steven Dierkes | Facebook