Town fined by state after woman dies in lawnmower accident

WINGATE, NC (WBTV) - The state has fined the town of Wingate in the mysterious death of a town worker involving a riding lawnmower.

The incident happened in mid-August and killed Felinda Thompson, who was riding a town lawnmower along West Elm Street at the time.

The NC Dept of Labor started an inspection on Aug 15 – just after Thompson's tragic death.

Thompson, 48, worked for the  Town of Wingate Public Works Department and was a 5 year veteran of the department.

The state announced Thursday that it has cited the town for one alleged serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina with a total penalty of $2,100.

"The penalties are in no way designed to make up for loss of life," said Dolores Quesenberry, a spokesperson for the labor dept.

No one is sure of the exact cause of the wreck, but it appears the lawnmowing equipment Thompson was operating flipped into a pile of brush not far from the street pavement.

The state said that the slope where a drainage culvert was along Elm Street -- where Thompson was mowing -- was too steep for the lawnmower. The slope was between 10 and 15 degrees, but the mower was designed only for a 5 degree slope.

The state report also said that workers had not received training in the safe operation of that type of mower -- a "Bad Boy zero-turn commercial lawnmower."

Thompson was from Peachland and formerly worked at Utiliquest.

By law, the civil money penalties collected by the N.C. Department of Labor are not the receipts of the department, but rather must be remitted to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund, which then distributes the monies to the public school systems.

The town has 15 working days from receipt of the citation to request an informal conference with the Labor Department, to file a notice of contest with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission of North Carolina, or to pay the penalty.

Copyright 2011 WBTV.