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TDK employee's death ruled self-inflicted

10-26-2007 Oklahoma:

A TDK Ferrites employee who was killed Oct. 14 in an industrial accident at the Shawnee plant apparently died of self-inflicted injuries, an investigation has revealed.

Ron Stravlo, president of the local plant, made the announcement Thursday after a meeting concluded between TDK and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials who investigated the death.

"OSHA inspectors said TDK was not at fault in this case," Stravlo said. "It was employee misconduct a self-inflicted wound."

Stravlo said Joe Pennington, 47, was running a kneader-type machine, which simulates kneading of bread. The large machine is used to compound the plant's ferrite materials. Workers operate the machinery on the ground level, so there is no reason to climb onto the machine, Stravlo said, but that's what Pennington apparently did.

"He found a way to bypass all of the safety equipment," Stravlo said, and climbed up the machinery about seven feet.

After that, Stravlo said the employee was able to bend over his upper body inside the machine, where a chute comes down for sealing. Stravlo said it appears Pennington maneuvered his foot to activate the machine, which crushed him.

Another employee found him and ran for help. The medical examiner ruled cause of death as suffocation, Stravlo said.

Following the employee's death, it was discovered that the worker, whose legal name is Joe Pennington, was working at TDK under the alias Lawrence Joe Fox, 48. While employed at the Shawnee magnet manufacturing plant, he had a valid driver's license and Social Security number in the Fox name.

His true identity wasn't known until after he died and TDK officials tried to notify his family. That's when it was learned he was Joe Pennington, a wanted sex offender out of Arizona. Since 2003, Pennington had been sought for probation violations involving a 2001 Arizona conviction of sexual conduct with a minor and kidnapping, according to online court records.

Pennington started working at the Shawnee plant as an Express Personnel temporary employee in April 2004 and was hired full time earlier this year. He worked in several departments, Stravlo said, including 15 months in the powder house, where his death occurred.

Stravlo said Pennington knew the kneading machine "inside and out" and it appears he figured out a way to bypass safety regulations. Stravlo said there are four employees in the large powder house area who may not see each other much during their shifts, so Pennington had time alone while working. The incident happened about 11:30 a.m.

Stravlo said OSHA officials did a good job investigating all possible ways the death could have occurred because nothing made sense.

"They looked at everything," he said, and interviewed powder house employees, many who have been there more than 30 years. Worldwide, TDK has never experienced an on-the-job suicide, Stravlo said.

"We are deeply saddened by this incident and the grief it has caused in the plant," Stravlo said. "We have sympathy for Joe Fox's family, but TDK had nothing to do with this person's death."

OSHA officials have recommended placing "Do not climb on machines" signs in the powder house area, Stravlo said, and TDK officials will re-emphasize not climbing on machinery when training.

Pennington lived in Meeker. TDK employees knew him as Joe Fox, and he was a good employee while there, Stravlo said, only missing two days of work in more than three years of employment. Stravlo said grief counselors have been available to all TDK employees over the past week.

Shawnee police also investigated this case. Police have no knowledge of Pennington being in any trouble while living here in Oklahoma. ..more.. by Kim Morava

Death probe of TDK employee takes new twist
10-17-2007 Oklahoma:

A TDK Ferrites employee, who was killed Sunday in an industrial accident at the plant, was described by company officials as a "model employee." But Shawnee police said Tuesday he was a convicted sex offender and was wanted on charges in Arizona.
Company officials and police confirmed he worked at the local plant under a different name for more than 3 1/2 years.

Ron Stravlo, president of the Shawnee plant, said that Joseph Pennington, 47, worked under the name of Lawrence Joe Fox, 48, while working at TDK. The worker's real identity was not discovered until Stravlo was attempting to notify next of kin of the death.

"He had a legitimate Social Security account number and a valid Oklahoma driver's license," Stravlo said Tuesday.

"He apparently created his own identity," Shawnee Police Detective Ethan Rieves said Tuesday. "It doesn't appear he stole anyone's identity," the officer said.

The death remains under investigation. Stravlo said officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are in charge of the investigation.

"They were on site Monday and will return this morning," Stravlo said. "The company is cooperating with investigators to determine the cause of death."

Stravlo said that Pennington had worked at the local plant as an Express Personnel employee from April 2004 through April when he was hired full time.

"We followed the I-9 and federal laws in our hiring practice," Stravlo said.

He said, "There was no reason for us to not believe he was Joseph Fox."

Stravlo said Pennington had worked in several departments, including the grinding, pressing and powder house. He was in the powder house at the time of the fatal accident, Stravlo said, although how he died is still not known. Pennington was discovered around 11:40 a.m. Sunday by a fellow employee who immediately ran for help, Stravlo said.

"Fellow employees attempted to revive him and called 911. Their efforts were unsucessfull and he was pronounced dead at the scene. We believe he was dead at the time he was discovered," Stravlo said.

Because OSHA is in charge of the accident investigation, Stravlo said company officials cannot comment further about the scene or the man's death.

Stravlo said there were no emergency contact numbers for the victim. He said as he continued his efforts Sunday night to contact the next of kin, he called a number and a woman answered who identified herself as an aunt in Arizona.

"She didn't know of any other next of kin," Stravlo said he was told, but said she would continue to find other relatives.

On Monday, Stravlo said he received a phone call from a woman in Arizona who identified herself as Shirley Pennington.

"She tells me she is the mother of Joseph Fox. She said the person you know as Joseph Fox is not Joe Fox. His real name is Joe Pennington," Stravlo said, "and she gave me a different Social Security number. That number and his real name is Joe Pennington."

Stravlo said he was unsure if Shirley was Pennington's aunt or his mother.

However, Rieves said Shirley Pennington told police officials she was the man's aunt and that his mother had not been heard from for several months.

Authorities said that Joe Pennington, who lived in Meeker at 422 W. Carl Hubbell Blvd., was a convicted sex offender from Arizona. "He was wanted on charges of sexual abuse and failure to appear. And he never registered in Oklahoma," Rieves said.

"Arizona authorities would have wanted to extradite him had he been arrested," Rieves said.

Rieves said the last case Pennington was wanted on was in 2003.

The detective said he had been told the man was a drifter before he got the TDK job and remained somewhat of a loner. Pennington had not been in any trouble since coming to Oklahoma, Rieves said.

Stravlo said the man had missed only two days of work in the 312 years of employment.

Pennington's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office, Rieves said.

The TDK official said, "Regardless of who he is, we have a tragedy. We are doing everything we can to learn how the accident occurred, and to prevent it from happening again. But we haven't been able to determine that," Stravlo said. ..more.. by Mike McCormick, Executive Editor

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