Husum resident Bill Locke, a subcontractor working on the city of White Salmon's water filtration plant project, died Friday afternoon after his four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle (ATV) overturned and fell on top of him.
Locke, 62, was employed by Pioneer Surveying & Engineering, Inc., out of Goldendale. He served as the lead inspector on the city's water infrastructure project, a position he had held since May.
According to law enforcement officials, Locke was riding his ATV along the right of way of the main water pipeline from the new filtration plant on Buck Creek to the city. He was apparently looking for areas where the old pipeline was exposed or may have been leaking when he went missing.
"Emergency responders found that the incident involved a four-wheel ATV that had crashed," reported Klickitat County Undersheriff Erik Anderson. "Initial investigation indicates that while Mr. Locke was working in the area on an engineering project, his ATV rolled over on steep terrain."
"We're pretty sad. It was a tragic accident," said White Salmon Public Works Director Mike Wellman. "He would often scout where work would need to be done on the pipeline, and I believe he was scouting where we might need to repair pipe. He was in an area where there was a steep slope, and got into a situation where the four-wheeler flipped and it ended up on top of him."
The incident occurred in the Nestor Peak area north of White Salmon.
Members of the Tapani, Inc., construction crew building the filtration plant reported that they began to get concerned at around 4 p.m. because Locke had not yet come back to the main work site.
"The crew got worried when he didn't show up and it started to get dark," explained Wellman. "They spent an hour and a half looking for him. Bless them, they wouldn't leave until they found him."
Tapani employees searched with headlights and flashlights and went out on a four-wheeler of their own.
"They saw the tracks going in and not coming out," Wellman said. "It was not easy to find him. It was dark and he was in an inaccessible location, but they stayed with it until they found him."
At about 5:30 p.m., crew members found Locke along the pipeline's right of way.
"It was a terrible shock," Wellman said.
White Salmon Mayor David Poucher expressed his sorrow over the accident.
"It's very, very tragic," Poucher said. "He was our lead inspector for the filtration plant and the pipeline, to make sure everything was being done right."
"I've worked with Bill in the past. We've been real close over the years," added Wellman. "He was one of the best inspectors I've known. He does a marvelous job. He was the most reliable and responsible person, and very thorough. When he was on the job, I always knew things were going to get done right."
There will be memorial service for Locke on Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Husum Fire Hall. The memorial is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
"He was real close to our family," Wellman said. "We're going to miss him."