By Associated Press - Wednesday, December 30, 2020

HILL CITY, Minn. (AP) - Authorities say man who died while working on a pipeline project in northern Minnesota was run over by a large forklift.

The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office has preliminarily ruled that the death of Jorge Villafuerte III at the Enbridge Energy Line 3 construction site was an accident. It happened in the predawn hours of Dec. 18 while Villafuerte was checking a list of materials while standing behind an industrial forklift.

As the forklift started backing up, a co-worker jumped out of the way but Villafuerte was struck “almost immediately” by the rear passenger tire, according to the sheriff’s office. The 45-year-old Villafuerte was dead by the time emergency responders arrived at about 7:17 a.m..

Villafuerte left nine children behind, the Star Tribune reported. Born in Mexico, Villafuerte started his family in Utah and was among the first 2,000 workers to arrive on the long-awaited and controversial $2.6 billion project.

Line 3 starts in Alberta and clips a corner of North Dakota before crossing northern Minnesota en route to Enbridge’s terminal in Superior, Wisconsin. The 337-mile (542.35-kilometer) line in Minnesota is the last step in replacing the deteriorating pipeline that was built in the 1960s.

The fatality came less than a month after construction began in Minnesota.

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