DALLAS — The United States Postal Service (USPS) is mourning the loss of one of its employees who passed away during their route in a Dallas neighborhood on Tuesday, the company confirms.
In a statement, USPS said, “The Postal Service is deeply saddened by the loss of life suffered yesterday involving a Lakewood Post Office Letter Carrier. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time."
His name was Eugene Gates, Jr., according to Kimetra Lewis, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 132. Gates joined USPS in November 1987.
"He was at the point where he could retire," she said.
His coworkers describe him as the first carrier out the door each day. They said he was a go-getter and loved by his peers.
Lewis said, "My heart goes out to them. From what everybody told me, Eugene was a great letter carrier. He enjoyed what he did, and I would just remind them of that."
While his cause of death has not been confirmed, Lewis said this is a reminder for all letter carriers to take care of themselves, especially in the summer heat.
"You're constantly, all day long exposed to the sun. And yesterday was a different type of heat. You almost couldn't breathe," she said.
Lewis said some of Gates' co-workers were frustrated and angry. Their shift start-time was changed from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. over the last few months, which meant they couldn't get a head start to beat the heat. After pleas from employees and the National Association of Letter Carriers following Gates' death, USPS management quickly changed the shift time to begin at 7:30 again for Lakewood mail carriers.
"I just want all letter carriers to think of their safety first," said Lewis.
When asked about heat safety, USPS stated, "Our carriers deliver the mail throughout the year during varying temperatures and climatic conditions. This includes during the summer months when the temperatures rise throughout the country. The safety of our employees is a top priority, and the Postal Service has implemented a national Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) for all employees. In connection with the HIPP, the Postal Service provides mandatory heat-related and other safety training and instruction to all employees and assures they have the resources needed to do their jobs safely.”
At this time, it is unknown if heat was a contributing factor to Gates' death, but NALC is pushing for heat safety for their members.
Gates is survived by his wife and children.