Saunders had found the job he loved

Alec Saunders

Young man killed in workplace accident

Alec Saunders found the job he loved at the Menards store in Burnsville.

The 27-year-old Burnsville man worked there just over a month, waking early for his morning shift as a forklift operator and asking for extra hours when he got bored at home, said his mother, Chris.

“He thrived,” she said. “It was an amazing turnaround for Alec.”

Saunders was killed May 5 in a forklift accident at the store. He died of blunt-force chest injuries, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said.

He grew up near Buck Hill in Burnsville, the oldest of Curt and Chris Saunders’ three sons. Saunders attended St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Savage and graduated from the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield in 2008.

He studied welding at Dakota County Technical College but didn’t like the work, his mother said. Saunders also worked for his parents, who own the Hamilton Apartments in Burnsville and the Captains Bay Marina in Hastings.

He operated the marina’s dredging equipment and learned handyman and electrician skills working at the apartment building, where he was living when he died, Chris said.

His parents, who buy many of their business supplies at Menards, urged their son to apply for a job there, Chris said.

It proved a great fit for Saunders, a shy person who had kept mostly to a circle of friends and liked to watch movies, play games, canoe the St. Croix River, snorkel and skydive, his mother said.

Saunders rode his bike to work, crossing East Highway 13 from the apartment building to the nearby store. His requests for extra hours were often honored.

“They’d let him come in and they’d find something for him to do,” Chris said. “Some of the customers wrote on his obituary and stated what a great help Alec was. He was always willing to and able to get what the customers needed, even if it wasn’t his department.”

On the morning of May 5 Saunders was lifting a heavy load of 16-foot 2-by-4s on his forklift, Chris said. It appeared he was going to place it atop another stack of boards when he backed off, deciding to place the load on a shorter stack, she said.

One side of the load clipped one of the stacks, causing the forklift to tip, she said. Saunders was seat-belted into the machine.

“His first instinct was to flee,” his mother said. “And he unbuckled and he went in the direction the rig was falling. So he landed on the ground, and then the rig landed on top of him.”

Burnsville police called Saunders’ father with news of the accident at about 8:10 a.m., said Chris, who then got a call from her husband.

“Here I’m thinking about how I’m going to refit my house for a wheelchair or something like that,” she said. Saunders was declared dead shortly before 9 a.m.

The medical examiner, Burnsville police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the accident.

Probably 300 people attended her son’s funeral, far more than she expected, Chris said.

“He had an impact on a lot of people,” she said. “He was really loved, and I think he didn’t think that sometimes. He must have forgotten that even his childhood buddies were never leaving his side, no matter what.”

Saunders is survived by his parents; brothers, Brian and Daniel; grandparents, Paul and Gloria Born; and many aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.

The visitation and service were May 13 at St. John the Baptist Church in Savage.