A family member of the state work release inmate killed in a workplace incident Thursday said he suffered a head injury from a falling beam.
"They were unloading beams and it somehow fell and hit him in the head," said Courtney Toups, the niece of Ronnie Francois. "We don't have too many details."
Toups said her uncle was incarcerated on a probation violation related to a conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Francois was a state inmate assigned to a work release program affiliated with the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office. The deadly incident occurred while he was working at B & C Industrial in the 36,000 block of North Corbin Road in Walker.
"He said he really liked the job and he especially really liked the boss on the job," Toups said.
Michael Buvens, of B & C Industrial, declined to comment on the specifics of the incident but said, "We’re heartbroken over everything."
Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard has said the incident appears to be a "tragic accident," and no foul play is suspected. He has not provided any details other than that Francois was manufacturing construction materials.
An investigator from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was on scene Friday morning, according to Hootie Lockhart, who operates the sheriff's Livingston Transitional Workforce Program.
OSHA did not respond to requests for comment.
The program is based at a 150-bed facility located off U.S. 190 in Walker on Sheriff's Office land near the Waste Management landfill.
Lockhart, of Lock5 LLC, said this was the first serious injury or death since he began running the work release facility in January. Lockhart said he sends inmates to work at 40 to 50 different businesses.
Lori Steele, a spokeswoman for Ard's office, said the death will not affect the contract it maintains with the facility's operator.
Livingston TWP was formerly operated by Paul Perkins, of Louisiana Workforce LLC. Lockhart, who is from Livingston Parish, said he purchased the contract from Perkins.
Francois' conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated originated in West Feliciana Parish, according to Natalie Laborde, an attorney for the Louisiana Department of Corrections. His good time release date was March 2021.
He had been housed at the work release program since Oct. 1, Lockhart said.
Toups said her uncle lived in Livingston with his sister, Samantha Toups, and leaves behind one daughter and two grandchildren.
She said Francois worked in construction and was in jail since May.
"He was extremely outgoing and funny, like a comedian almost, made people laugh everywhere he went," Toups said.