OSHA begins investigation into WSU student’s death

Brooke Baures found dead in food elevator of restaurant

The body of a 21-year-old female employee was found entangled in a food elevator at WingDam Saloon and Grill in Fountain City on Monday night.

The food elevator, commonly referred to as a dumbwaiter, was attached to the establishment’s kitchen. The opening to the dumbwaiter is about 3 feet by 3 feet.  It was used to shuttle drinks and food to the second floor.

Buffalo County Sheriff’s dispatchers got a series of 911 calls at about 8 p.m. Monday from the restaurant, where there was a banquet being held on the second floor.

Winona State University confirmed the identity of the woman as student athlete Brooke Baures of Chetek, Wis. She was a senior majoring in social work and was a member of the WSU Gymnastics team from 2011 to 2014.

“Brooke was a leader on that team and a very talented gymnast,” WSU Athletic Director Eric Schoh said. “This is a tremendous loss for our community, and we ask that you keep Brooke and her family, friends, coaches and teammates in your thoughts.”

Fountain City police said there is no sign of a criminal act, but the investigation is still open. Fountain City Police Chief Jason Mork said he has talked to about half of the customers and employees at the restaurant the night of Baures’ death without finding anyone who saw what happened. No formal conclusion has been reached, but Mork said there’s no indication it was anything other than an accident. Mork says Baures was found trapped in the entirety of the machine and had become entangled in it.

An autopsy on Baures’ body has been scheduled. Buffalo County Coroner and Medical Examiner Pete Samb said Wednesday afternoon he is still awaiting the results of the autopsy and the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office’s follow-up investigation. Samb said he expects the results to be released early next week.

The Fountain City Police Department is still trying to identify all of the patrons/customers at the WingDam Bar and Saloon, 1 North Shore Drive. If you were there between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday is asked to contact police at (608) 687-4214. Police emphasize that these patrons are not considered suspects, but rather witnesses to all the events of the establishment Monday evening.

There was a vigil held on Wednesday night at the alumni gazebo on Winona State’s campus for students, friends and anyone else wishing to pay their respects.

Counseling and support services are available to all students and WSU community members who may be affected by this loss. Walk-in counseling services for both one-on-one and group sessions were available Tuesday and Wednesday at WSU Counseling and Wellness Services in the Integrated Wellness Complex.

The Buffalo County Sheriff says she may have pushed a button to send the elevator from the second floor to the first floor of the restaurant and possibly reached for something inside.

Data from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration shows that dumbwaiter accidents are rare. According to the OSHA database, only two incidents, both fatal, have happened in the U.S. between 2003 and 2013.

OSHA and the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services are investigating.