molten metal being poured at a foundry

Caterpillar Worker Dies After Falling Into 2,600-Degree Molten Iron on the First Week on the Job

A horrific tragedy occurred at the Caterpillar foundry in Mappleton, Illinois, on June 2. Steven Dierkes lost his life on the fifth day at his new job. He fell into a crucible of hot molten iron and died instantly.[1]

He did not have enough training to even be on the melting deck. Steven Dierkes’ death is the second workplace-related death in 7 months at the foundry. The Mappleton Caterpillar facility has violated several safety rules in the past decade. When Dierkes, aged 39, a Peoria native, fell in, he had been working close to the cauldron. The cauldrons had metals boiling at temperatures above 2,600 ℉. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the coroner’s department, and the sheriff are now conducting an investigation.[2]

Steven Dierkes Fell Head-First Into Molten Iron

An experienced Caterpillar worker named Ron (a fictional name to protect his identity), revealed the details of the gruesome accident. He said that Dierkes had tried to take a sample of the molten iron for testing. This was a routine procedure, however, things went wrong as Dierkes did not have any experience. Ron detailed the scene of the accident. He said that Dierkes did not completely fall into the vat.

Only half of Dierkes had fallen into the crucible. However, he did die instantly. The coroner had to retrieve the rest of the body from the melting deck floor. The sight of a dead colleague was most likely traumatizing for the workers that witnessed it.

Mapleton’s foundry manufactures a variety of engine castings utilizing various metal combinations that are then poured into different molds in various pour zones. These are then used to make engine heads, blocks, liners, and additional manufacturing parts. The tragedy took place in the foundry’s main melting area.

Steven Dierkes
Steven Dierkes, 39, is survived by his partner Jessica Sutter and their three daughters. Image Credit: Legacy

Caterpillar Booked For Several Breaches

The incident occurred early in the morning. All the foundry workers were sent home by 10:20 am. They were asked not to return until Monday. A different worker revealed that Dierkes had only joined 5 days ago. Dierkes had no reason to be on the melting floor as he did not have enough training.

According to the Journal Star, last year on Dec 23, Scott Adams, a Caterpillar worker died after falling around 20 feet. Scott was an electrician from Shaefer Electric. Caterpillar hired him to install new equipment. OSHA is still investigating the accident although it has been over 6 months since Adams’ untimely death.

According to available details, Adams had climbed a tall ladder, after which he fell 20 ft through an improperly covered floor opening. Since the UAW sold out Caterpillar employees in the 1990s, the Mapleton, Illinois Caterpillar complex has been on the scene of several health and safety infractions. The UAW abandoned two Caterpillar protests, one in 1991-92 and the other in 1994-95, which resulted in the introduction of the dreaded two-tier structure and a sharp 30% wage drop for recruits by 1998. 

Dierkes’ Death May Not Be The Last

Since Ron got a job there 30 years ago, Dierkes was the third person to die. OSHA fined Caterpillar $4,337 for significant safety and health breach at the same factory. Caterpillar paid $10,419 to OSHA in Jan 2019 because a worker lost their finger on duty at the factory.

Caterpillar had to pay $25,868 for a safety breach in Nov 2017. OSHA charged Caterpillar again in 2017. A worker suffered six cracked ribs due to workplace neglect. The UAW has been doing little or nothing to prevent the facility’s escalating safety dangers, as seen by the facility’s repeated infractions and injuries. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the unions have done little to safeguard workers from dangerous working conditions.

Keep Reading: Viral clip shows individual holding woman on train as passengers watch in horror


  1. Peoria man identified as the person who died at Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton.” Journal Star. Andy Kravetz. June 2, 2022.
  2. Caterpillar worker falls into molten iron crucible and dies at Mapleton, Illinois foundry.” WSWS. James Martin. June 2022.
  3. “ID released for East Peoria contractor who died in fall at Caterpillar foundry in Mapleton” Journal Star. December 23, 2021.