By Tim Eberly
A Judith Gap man died Tuesday afternoon during a logging accident on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
Steve Thomas Butorovich, 27, fell while transferring logs at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday onto a transport truck, said Rocky Boy police investigator Stan Gardipee. The accident occurred on Sandy Creek Road, one mile east of the western border of the reservation.
Butorovich likely died instantly when he landed on a steel platform connected to his truck, Gardipee said. The impact crushed his spinal cord and forced it into his brain, the investigator said.
Butorovich, a trucker and loading operator for Judith Gap-based Miller Trucking Inc., was on a one-day assignment to transport logs from Rocky Boy to Townsend. Butorovich and Marshall Aamold, his co-worker, had been working for about an hour before the accident.
"I didn't see the accident," said the 46-year-old Aamold, who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Butorovich for 15 to 20 minutes before tracking down several local men to call authorities. "I just saw that he wasn't on his truck anymore. He'd fallen off the seat of the loader."
Aamold discovered Butorovich's body sprawled across the platform.
Butorovich fell to 8 to 10 feet from a seat elevated above the truck to coordinate the collection of logs. Gardipee said Butorovich's seat was broken, but the mechanic from Miller Trucking, John Hershberger, disputes that.
"The seat is not broken; it's bent," Hershberger said today. "I looked at the seat this morning and the seat was in good condition. Nobody knows exactly what happened."
Butorovich, who was single, weighed 460 pounds and was nicknamed "Tiny."
"He had a lot of weight behind him when he fell," Gardipee said.
Hershberger said he may have stood up to observe the logs, and when he sat down against the back of the seat, it may have bent underneath him.
A couple weeks ago, a bolt loosened from a hinge on the seat, so "there was an ongoing deal to make sure it was working," Aamold said.
Hershberger said it had been repaired and was in perfect condition.
"We're dealing with it from the safety aspect," Hershberger said. "It's my driver that lost his life. I do the service on all the trucks, so it's been hard. We're kind of walking around in a daze."
Doctors in Missoula performed an autopsy on Wednesday, and found alcohol was not a factor in his death, Gardipee said.
Butorovich and Aamold had been working together for a year and a half. "He was a fun man to be around," Aamold said. "He just enjoyed life. He was just that kind of guy."
After Aamold's CPR on Butorovich proved unsuccessful, Aamold drove five miles and asked some men, who were cutting firewood, to call 911. He could not get service from his cell phone.
"I wish that things were different," Aamold said. "I just wish I could have done more for him."
Butorovich had two sisters, and one of them, Susan Miller, is married to the owner of Miller Trucking, Tony Miller. He could not be reached for comment.
Miller Trucking is a log-hauling company with eight trucks and seven employees. Butorovich had been employed there for about five years.
"He loved what he did," Hershberger said. "He was where he wanted to be."
Judith Gap is 131 miles south of Havre, on the northern edge of Wheatland County.