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FVCC student death remains under investigation

Published On: Sep 24 2013 09:55:19 PM MDT   Updated On: Sep 24 2013 10:07:47 PM MDT

Flathead Valley Community College President Jane Karas told NBC Montana the death of Peter Mahlum, a 60-year-old student and Bigfork resident was a tragic accident.

'It was a very unfortunate incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family," said Karas.

That's about all Karas would say about what happened Monday. But here's what the Flathead County Sheriff's Office said: Mahlum was working on a student project as part of the Building Trades program at a building northeast of campus when he fell backwards off scaffolding and landed in a 55 gallon barrel.

NBC Montana took a closer look at safety within the Building Trades program. It's a 1- to 2-year courseload where students learn how to build a single family-home. Last year, students built an addition for a rural school.

The course catalog shows Workplace Safety as a course taken in the spring semester of a student's first year, but it is unknown how far along Mahlum was in the program.

When asked if students sign safety waivers or are briefed before working at a job site Karas replied, "Our student safety is our first priority and is part of the program."

Besides his Building Trades studies, folks-off camera told NBC Montana that Mahlum, a veteran, also took an interest in cabinetry and was enrolled in a college course in that subject.

College officials are complying with the Flathead County Sheriff's Office as they continue to investigate Mahlum's death.