CLAREMONT - A worker killed after being pulled through the rollers of a paper machine yesterday morning had just returned to his job after being laid off.
Fire Chief Peter Chase said when emergency crews arrived, Leo Gonyea of Enfield was in cardiac arrest and suffering severe trauma. Paramedics got the 34-year-old stabilized and continued working on him as they took him to Valley Regional Medical Center, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital just after 10 a.m.
"He was a good worker, a good employee and well-liked by the other employees and he was just a young guy," said Frank Tarantino, president of APC Paper Company. "(The employees) all work so closely together. This is just an upsetting situation for everyone."
Tarantino said he shut down operations at the mill after the accident and sent everyone home. He was expecting to open back up by 7 p.m. last night after investigators from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration concluded their work.
Tarantino said it's still not clear how Gonyea ended up going through the machine about 8:30 a.m. He said the roller machine is very long and has four to five workers stationed at it at any given time. At the time of the accident, Gonyea was about 15 to 20 feet away from a co-worker, Tarantino said. The paper goes into the roller wet, he said. It goes along the line and through a series of dryers. It is then wound up at the end, where it is rolled and more moisture extracted.
"Leo was at the spot where it gets wound," Tarantino said. "There was another person no more than 15 or 20 feet away from him, but he was looking the other way. When he turned, he saw Leo wasn't there. He went around and found Leo on the floor."
Gonyea had only been back on the job for about three weeks, according to his Facebook page. Many of his entries talk about the 12-hour shifts he was working at the plant. One entry said he had worked six, 12-hour shifts in a row.
"A FEW MORE MIN. AN IM HOMEWORD BOUND CANT WAIT TO HIT MY BED LONG NITE," he wrote Friday in his last post.
The woman identified on Facebook as his fiance, Jodi Newcity, also referenced his long shifts.
"my leo is working tonight from 7pm to 7am," she wrote in a recent posting. "It was his night off but he wanted the money :) good night leo i miss an love you."
The two were planning to marry in late August.
In one post, Gonyea talked about his past. "i been in recovery since i went to prison havent been in hand cuffs in five yrs, and have no worries of ever wearing them again as long as i stay clean from drugs an alcohol , im getting married this summer, my life is good today."
He was proud of his sobriety and discussed it in several posts. He told one person they wouldn't even recognize him anymore, that he had finally grown up.
Gonyea had two children, and had custody of his son from July 15 through the end of August, according to his Facebook page. He regularly ended posts with "goodnight" and "love" to both of his kids and his fiance.
"Just wants to thank you for coming into my life and showing me what love feels like after so long without it!," he wrote to Newcity. "I love you!"
Rose O'Hare with OSHA in Concord said because the accident was fatal, it may be weeks before investigators have any information to release.