FAIRFAX, Va. — Friends said Paul Gato moved to Virginia to pursue the American dream, but a workplace accident would tragically end his future plans.
Gato, who lived in Woodbridge, died after a forklift fell on its side at a Home Depot on Merrilee Drive near Lee Highway in Fairfax early Tuesday morning.
He was using a forklift to unload supplies from a delivery truck when it fell and trapped him, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. Investigators said the delivery truck driver heard the loud crash and immediately alerted emergency responders.
The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration is working with detectives on the active investigation, who determined criminal activity was not involved.
"Paul was a happy, friendly and caring person who was always there when someone needed a hand," The Home Depot spokesperson Margaret Smith told WUSA9. "We’re heartbroken by the loss of our friend and fellow associate of nine years, and his family are in our prayers."
Oral Ofori knew Gato for almost 25 years and spent many years as friends in the DMV when the two moved to Virginia from Ghana almost 10 years ago. Ofori said his longtime friend saw opportunities in the U.S. that would help him support his loved ones in Ghana.
He was recently in Ghana to bury a loved one.
Gato is described as a generous and caring man who was always concerned for his community.
"Even before his cup is full, he's helping people here," Ofori said. "He was a huge-hearted person, very positive minded person, very giving and very nurturing."
Ofori believed Gato would want to be buried in Ghana.
Friends who went to Chemu Senior High School with him in Tema, located outside Ghana's capital city of Accra, describe him as a very affable person, who tried to live at peace with everyone.
"If there's one thing we'll miss Paul for mostly it would be for his generosity, concern and his caring nature," Ofori added.
There have been eight other workplace fatalities in the commonwealth of Virginia in 2021, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In 2019, U.S. employers reported 5,333 workplace injuries, per the United States Bureau for Labor Statistics. There were 180 workplace fatalities in Virginia in 2019.
Friends and schoolmates are now raising money for Gato's funeral expenses. To donate click here or send donations to $OralOfori on Cashapp.