FLORENCE, Wis. (AP) — Workplace safety officials are investigating the death of a 16-year-old boy from injuries he received last week at a Wisconsin sawmill.
Michael Schuls died Saturday at a pediatric hospital in Milwaukee, two days after officers responded to a call about an unresponsive teenager at Florence Hardwoods, Florence County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Teresa Chrisman said Thursday.
His death comes as lawmakers in several states, including Wisconsin, are embracing legislation to let children work in more hazardous occupations, for more hours on school nights and in expanded roles, including serving alcohol in bars and restaurants as young as 14.
A news release from the sheriff’s office said the teen died after an “industrial accident” but Chrisman said Thursday that Schuls’ cause of death and details of his injuries were not being released because of the ongoing investigation.
Florence County Coroner Jeff Rickaby said an autopsy was performed Thursday morning but it will likely be weeks before Schuls’ cause of death is determined because laboratory results and other information are still pending.
A GoFundMe account set up online for Schuls’ family said he was “working at Florence Hardwoods when horrible tragedy struck.” The teen was on life support before he died, according to the account’s creators.
“Our small community is in absolute shock,” the post says.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating and has made a referral to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for possible child labor violations concerning hazardous occupations, the Labor Department’s regional director for public affairs, Scott Allen, told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Florence Hardwoods has no comment on the boy’s death while it is under investigation, company office manager Jordan Davis said Thursday. The company is located in the town of Florence, near the border with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about 110 miles (177 kilometers) north of Green Bay.
In Wisconsin, minors are prohibited from working in all logging-related occupations, including jobs involving the operation of sawmills, according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
The state’s labor standards prohibit children under 18 from entering a sawmill building and also bar them from felling trees, cutting up fallen trees, collecting or moving logs and using a chainsaw, among other tasks.
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