OSHA looking into death at Angoon lodge

Man burned trying to cut empty fuel tank

Posted: Thursday, July 22, 2004

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a weekend accident at an Angoon lodge that led to the death of a man working there.

Troy S. Payne, 61, was cutting an empty 500-gallon fuel tank with an acetylene torch Saturday, said Gary McCoy, operations manager for Whaler's Cove Lodge, on an island near the village about 55 miles southwest of Juneau.

State troopers reported Wednesday that Payne was seriously burned and flown to Seattle, where he died Sunday.

"He was a good friend to a lot of people," McCoy said.

Dick Powers, who owns the lodge with his wife, Sharon, said the explosion made the ground shake in the village about four miles away. An OSHA inspector was at the scene Monday to investigate the accident, he said.

McCoy said the fuel tank Payne was working on was unusable. He was trying to salvage it as a barrel for burning.

"A lot of people tried to save Troy," McCoy said, adding that Payne was a longtime friend.

He said Payne was his hunting guide when they met in Montana about 15 years ago.

He said Payne came up to visit him, at first as a client. Later he worked at the lodge. This summer, Payne had been there four days, Powers said.

Payne's wife, Janet Payne, told the Empire from her home in Concord, N.C., that he worked at the lodge because of his friendship with the Powers family. She said she normally comes up to Alaska while he is here but doesn't stay the entire time.

"He loved it there," she said. "We started coming to Whaler's Cove in 1994."

A retired officer with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department, Payne was the father of their 7-year-old daughter and two children from a previous marriage, his wife said.

"He was a joy to be around," she said.

Payne was so badly burned that even life support wouldn't have helped him, she said.

Powers said people at the lodge got Payne to the clinic in Angoon to be stabilized five minutes after the accident. He flew with him to Bartlett Regional Hospital and to the burn center at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where doctors kept him alive until his wife and daughter could see him one last time.

"There was no doubt in my mind that he hung on to say goodbye to his family," Powers said.

"He had a lot of capability," he said, describing Payne as "a big, strong man." One season he managed the lodge. His building skills live on in the lodge, which he helped add to.

Powers said Payne will be missed at the lodge. "He fit in well, and he loved this place," he said.

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