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Oregon OSHA investigating death of Walmart warehouse worker in Hermiston

Family said they are waiting on a preliminary autopsy from the medical examiner's office to determine whether the employee's death was heat-related.
Credit: KGW News

HERMISTON, Ore. — A man died in late June after working in the heat at a Walmart distribution center in Hermiston, according to family.

Family said Kenton Scott Krupp, 51, was either leaving work or taking a lunch break when he collapsed outside the distribution center on his way to his car. He had just begun working at the warehouse within the last month.

A workplace death on June 24 at a warehouse in Hermiston was reported to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Its workplace fatalities database lists the cause of death as "unknown" for now. 

Krupp's family said they are waiting on a preliminary autopsy from the medical examiner's office to determine whether his death was heat-related. It could take several months for the death investigation to be complete.

Krupp passed away one day before a heat dome settled in over the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures hit a high of 97 degrees in Hermiston on Thursday, June 24, before soaring to record highs that killed dozens of Oregonians.

Oregon OSHA confirmed to KGW on Friday it is actively investigating a workplace death at the Walmart warehouse.

A spokesperson with the agency did not name the employee, but said they "began stumbling and having difficulty speaking at the end of their shift". A coworker called 911 and the employee was taken to a hospital in Hermiston, then quickly transferred to a hospital in Portland, where family says Krupp passed away.

Co-workers told The New York Times that he had underlying health issues and was working inside a hot trailer with only a fan.

According to the East Oregonian, the distribution center has been a large employer in the community for more than two decades and serves over 100 Walmart stores in the Pacific Northwest.

Scott Pope, a spokesman for Walmart, told the Times, "We are devastated by the loss of one of our associates and are doing everything we can to support those affected... The details surrounding the associate’s passing are being assessed by medical professionals and OSHA. Out of an abundance of caution, we provided all information available to Oregon OSHA and are cooperating fully in their investigation.”

On Friday, the state medical examiner confirmed 83 people died of hyperthermia during the heat wave, and the office is investigating whether 32 more deaths were heat-related.

Four deaths that were included in preliminary heat-related counts have been excluded and determined as not being heat-related.