Father of 3 girls dies after falling into a vessel used for melting metals: “Never got to say goodbye”

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Last week, a man from Illinois died “instantly” after slipping into a crucible at the Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton.

Steven Dierkes, 39, of Peoria, was working near the crucible when he accidentally fell in it on June 2, according to the statement released by Peoria County Coroner Jamie Hardwood. A crucible is a “vessel in which metallic elements are melted to be cast into new objects or to create a new alloy,” per The Charlotte Observer. The Caterpillar crucible was at least 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Harwood.

After allowing the contents of the crucible to cool for many hours, authorities combed through the metal bits and discovered Dierkes’ remains, reports PEOPLE. Hardwood wrote in the statement, “This was such a sad case for his family, who never got to say goodbye.”

According to his obituary, he had three daughters, Rilie Myrl, 12, Remie Jo, 5, and Tamzlinn Jean, 4. His wife, Jessica Sutter, was his best friend and life partner. Dierkes had just turned 39, a month before his death. He is described as a man who loved outdoors and animals. He was, “a hard-working teddy bear of a man with calloused hands and a tender heart.”

Lisa Miller, a Caterpillar spokeswoman, said in an email, “We are deeply saddened by the death of an employee who was involved in a serious incident at our Mapleton, Illinois, facility on June 2.” She further added, “Our thoughts are with this employee’s family, friends and colleagues. The safety of our employees, contractors and visitors is our top priority.”

The collision was reported to the Peoria County Coroner’s Office and the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office shortly before 10 a.m. on June 2. The coroner said, “The contents of the crucible were removed and placed in another container to cool. Several hours later, my staff and I were able to sort through the metal fragments and find his remains.”

His obituary described Dierkes as a very generous person, “He would have done anything for anyone with no expectation of anything in return. He would have given a stranger the shirt from his back even though that may have been his last shirt.” It further says, “He was a wonderful loving father to his daughters that he absolutely adored. He will be greatly missed.”

Another worker at the foundry died in December after falling. Scott Adams of East Peoria is thought to have fallen 20 feet to his death through a hole in the floor after stepping off a ladder, per Journal Star.

Cover Image Source: Family obituary