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Death of accident victim is mourned

An occupational safety inspector is investigating the accidental death of 23-year-old Russell Jeffers while his family and friends plan to attend a memorial service for the young construction worker today at Condon Park.

Jeffers died of blunt force trauma to his upper body when he became pinned in the mechanisms of a backhoe at a residential construction site Feb. 24 on the 15000 block of McCourtney Road.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Dan Kemp, Jeffers’ former agricultural mechanics teacher at Bear River High School. “Everybody feels so bad over this. He will surely be missed.”



Jeffers was reportedly digging a leach line approximately 1,200 feet from a newly constructed residence in a small valley, alone and out of sight of other workers.

According to the sheriff’s investigation report, Jeffers’ employer John Fischer – owner of Norcal Construction – went to check on Jeffers at approximately 4:30 p.m. to see if he had finished the job.




Fischer found Jeffers pinned upright between the John Deere backhoe’s digging arm and left downrigger.

According to the report, Jeffers had loaded a 30-pound surveyor’s tripod into the cab of the machine, which hit and triggered a control lever that quickly swung the digging arm around to the left where Jeffers was standing.

Fischer reportedly released the machine’s hydraulic pressure that had been holding Jeffers up and loaded him into the backhoe with the help of other workers. Paramedics attempted life-saving measures, but Jeffers was declared dead at the scene.

Fischer did not return calls from The Union.

Nevada County Sheriff John Trauner said an inspector with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health arrived to the site Friday to investigate the accident.

According to CalOSHA, inspector John Stanatellos’ investigation is not yet complete.

Meanwhile, Jeffers’ family and friends are mourning their loss.

Jeffers’ mother, Claudia Jeffers, said she was not ready to talk about her son’s death but did say that he was experienced in backhoe operation.

Kemp said Jeffers was a good student in agricultural mechanics.

“He was a nice young man,” Kemp said. “He worked hard in the shop.”

Peggy Dorris, grandmother of Tiffany Dorris, Jeffers’ girlfriend of two years, said Jeffers was an exceptional young man.

“He was a wonderful guy,” Peggy Dorris said. “He worshiped (Tiffany) and it was the same for her.”

She said the high school graduate fit in very well with her family at a Christmas gathering two years ago.

“This is just awful all the way around,” she said.

Jeffers’ family said he excelled in baseball at Bear River High School, was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed riding his dirt bike, camping, fishing and hunting with friends.

He is survived by his mother, Claudia Jeffers of Grass Valley; brothers Marshall and Sam Jeffers; sister, Claire Jeffers; grandmother, Rosalie Jeffers of Florida; and his girlfriend, Tiffany Dorris.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. today at the Love Building at Condon Park in Grass Valley.

Memorial contributions may be made to Ducks Unlimited, Big Brothers and Big Sisters or the charity of the donor’s choice.

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To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.


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