Police identify woman killed in Ionia industrial accident

First responders on the scene of a fatal industrial accident at Ventra Ionia Main. (WOOD, July 7, 2015)

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD/WLNS) — Public safety officers are identifying the woman killed in an industrial accident in Ionia Tuesday afternoon.

Officers say 57-year-old Wanda Holbrook of Grand Rapids became trapped by robotic machinery at Ventra Ionia Main. Her co-workers freed her, but she died at the scene.

Holbrook worked for Ventra for 12 years in the maintenance department.

Police have started an investigation into the accident, and will be working with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Ventra Ionia Main is located on Beardsley Road south of E. Bluewater Highway. The company’s website lists the 724,000-square-foot facility’s primary operations as stamping, welding, chrome plating, molding, assembly and testing for chrome-plated plastics, front and rear bumpers, and trailer hitches.

Our sister station WOOD-TV 8 found there have been several violations and two previous deaths at the facility, which has had multiple names over the last 25 years. Ownership may have changed with the name, but the records they found did not provide details on that.

In 1991, when it was American Bumper & Manufacturing, two men were crushed in a power press and killed. A subsequent inspection found 215 violations. The company was fined nearly $1 million, but that was negotiated down to about $435,000.

In 2007, when it was Meridian Automotive Systems, Inc., 16 violations were found. The company was fined nearly $13,000, which was reduced to $7,700. In 2009, there were two more violations. A fine of $2,000 was issued and reduced to $840.

In 2013, by which time to the facility was named Ventra Ionia Main, there was one serious violation. They company was fined $4,500, which was later reduced to half that.

Fine reductions are common in Michigan. In 2013, WOOD-TV 8 found that low fines for companies were often reduced by half or more, even in cases where someone died. The state says it tries to educate employers before problems arise and that reducing fines encourages employers to quickly fix problems. A federal law was proposed in 2013 to increase penalties for workplace safety violations, but it never came to a vote.

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