A Virginia Home Depot employee died following an accident that occurred just after midnight on Tuesday, November 23. According to the Fairfax County police department, 43-year-old Paul Gato of Woodbridge was unloading supplies from a delivery truck. The store was located on Merrilee Drive.
Suddenly, a nearby forklift fell on its side, trapping him underneath. Upon hearing a loud crash, the delivery truck driver found Gato pinned beneath the forklift. He then immediately called for emergency services. Unfortunately, the employee did not survive the incident. Officials pronounced him dead at the scene.
Following the tragic death, police have opened up an investigation into the incident. So far, they have found “no indication of criminal activity.”
The Fairfax department also stated that “detectives are working with officials from the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration” to uncover additional details. The chief medical examiner is currently working to determine the official cause of death.
On Tuesday, Home Depot spokesperson Margaret Smith has issued a statement following Gato’s death.
“Paul was a happy, friendly and caring person who was always there when someone needed a hand,” she said on Tuesday, per NBC News. “We’re heartbroken by the loss of our friend and fellow associate of nine years, and his family is in our prayers.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that there have been eight other workplace fatalities in the commonwealth of Virginia in 2021. The administration has also investigated 15 fatalities involving a forklift in at least 10 states within the past year.
Friends Mourn the Death of Home Depot Employee
Among the friends and family that are mourning the loss of Paul Gato was Oral Ofori. Gato knew Orofi even before they emigrated from Ghana together. According to Ofori, the two had been friends for 25 years. Just 10 years ago, they decided to move to the States so that Gato could support his family back home.
Years before moving to another country, Gato attended Chemu Senior High School with him in Tema, located outside Ghana’s capital city of Accra. Upon hearing the tragic news of Gato’s death, friends that went to school with Gato described him as “a very affable person, who tried to live at peace with everyone,” according to WUSA 9.
Gato recently returned to his home country to bury a loved one. This is also where Ofori believes the Home Depot employee would want to be buried, too.
“Even before his cup is full, he’s helping people here,” Ofori said of his close friend. “He was a huge-hearted person, very positive minded person, very giving and very nurturing.”
He continued, “If there’s one thing we’ll miss Paul for mostly it would be for his generosity, concern and his caring nature.”