A contract worker died in a workplace accident Wednesday at the Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) Horizon oilsands site about 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

The man was clearing debris off the shoreline of a tailings pond using a floating backhoe around 12 p.m. MT when the machine slipped into the water, trapping him inside the cabin, said Peter Janson, vice-president of engineering and integration with the Horizon oilsands project.

"There were people working in the area, and so notification was issued right away for emergency response," he said.

After working for an hour to rescue the contractor, a dive team recovered his body at about 1:40 p.m. MT

Police are not releasing the man's name until his family is notified.  

Investigators from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety arrived on site Wednesday afternoon.

"Our officers are going to pore over the scene, get all of the information that they require to find out what happened, and more importantly to ensure that this will not happen again," said Barrie Harrison from Alberta Occupational Health and Safety.  "This will include interviews with any bystanders, or other folks or workers who may have been around at the time."

Harrison says investigators will also look at the company's safety procedures as well as examine the machinery itself.

Two temporary workers from China died at the Horizon site in April 2007 when the roof of a massive storage tank collapsed.

CNRL's Peter Janson says statistics show the Horizon site is safe, and that incident is completely unrelated to the death of the contractor on Wednesday, who was not a temporary foreign worker.

"They're in two totally different geographic areas, totally different spokes of work and effort, different individuals involved," Janson said. "So I don't think there's a relationship that I can draw on that."

The immediate work area was shut down, and critical stress debriefing sessions were underway Wednesday for anyone who witnessed the incident, he said.