Dierkes is the second person to die at the Mapleton foundry in the last six months.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 10, 2022. It has since been updated.
Trigger Warning: This story mentions graphic descriptions of injuries that may be disturbing to readers.
Steven Dierkes, 39, of Peoria, worked at the Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton. He was a hard-working employee, but the father of three daughters "died instantly" after falling into a crucible at the foundry, according to PEOPLE.
Dierkes "was apparently working near" the crucible, "when he accidentally fell in" on the morning of June 2, 2022, Peoria County Coroner Jamie Hardwood wrote in a statement. The Peoria County Coroner's Office and Peoria County Sheriff's Office were informed of the accident just before 10 am on the day of the accident, according to the coroner's statement.
Workers have responded with an outpouring of sympathy, horror and growing indignation to the horrific workplace death last week of Steven Dierkes at Caterpillar’s Mapleton foundry in central Illinois. On June 2, Steven, 39, was working near a crucible... https://t.co/X6Lrog59gj— World Socialist Web Site (@WSWS_Updates) June 8, 2022
They got a call who told them that a man was "involved in an industrial accident" at the Mapleton foundry and "was obviously deceased."
"The contents of the crucible were removed and placed in another container to cool. Several hours later, my staff and I were able to sort through the metal fragments and find his remains," the coroner said.
According to a California-based nonprofit organization and art school, a crucible is a "vessel in which metallic elements are melted to be cast into new objects" and "can withstand very high temperatures," per The Charlotte Observer.
'Wonderful' Father of 3 Dies at Work After Falling Into Metal-Melting Container: 'A Hard-Working Teddy Bear' https://t.co/V1uPnJYtpY— People (@people) June 8, 2022
He died of "thermal annihilation," according to the statement, which also mentioned that no foul play is suspected. "This was such a sad case for his family, who never got to say goodbye," Hardwood wrote.
Dierkes, who turned 39 one month prior to his death, was described in his obituary as "a hard-working teddy bear of a man with calloused hands and a tender heart."
"Steven loved the outdoors and all animals. He was a loving person who enjoyed laughter from any source he could find. He would have done anything for anyone with no expectation of anything in return. He would have given a stranger the shirt from his back even though that may have been his last shirt. Most of all, he was a wonderful loving father to his daughters that he absolutely adored. He will be greatly missed," the obit reads.
Meanwhile, Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for Caterpillar, said the company was "deeply saddened" by the employee's death, according to The Peoria Journal Star.
At the time, few details are available, but according to Chris Watkins with the Peoria County Sheriff's office, detectives at the scene are investigating a death that was the result of an "occupational accident."https://t.co/R3Ebhho3wx— WMBD News (@WMBDNews) June 2, 2022
"Our thoughts are with this employee's family, friends, and colleagues," Miller told the outlet in a statement. "The safety of our employees, contractors, and visitors is our top priority."
Dierkes is the second person to die at the Mapleton foundry in the last six months. Prior to Dierkes, a 50-year-old man fell to his death at the facility in December 2021 after he allegedly stepped off a ladder and fell 20 feet through a hole in the floor.
Cover Image Source: Journal Star Obituaries