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Teen manure pit death: Pa. teen suffocates after tractor accident on farm

Pennsylvania teen dies in manure pit after accident.
Pennsylvania teen dies in manure pit after accident.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health/Wikimedia Commons

A teen died in a manure pit while working on his farm over the weekend. Jonas King suffocated underneath a tractor after it fell into the manure pit he was working with. The teen was buckled in and unable to slide out from underneath the vehicle. The Mercury News reported on this tragic accident on Aug. 10.

Jonas King was working on his farm on late Saturday morning when his tractor overturned into the manure pit located on the farm. The personnel on scene needed to use a wrecker to extract the tractor from pit. The tractor trapped the teen underneath, and it took emergency personnel an hour to remove the piece of farm equipment from the pit. By that time, it was too late. The mission of the personnel on scene changed from a rescue operation to a recovery operation. The medical examiner office performed an autopsy on the teenager, and their report revealed that the cause of death was asphyxia.

One might think deaths because of falls or accidents involving manure pits are rare, but that is definitely not the case. King died in Lancaster, and there have been six other deaths in that area alone since 1989. The deaths were linked to jumping or falling into manure pits. The release of trapped gases from the pits has also been linked to deaths. The National Agriculture Database shared the following in a report about manure pits:

"Since the increased use of manure pits by Michigan livestock producers, there have been several instances where a farmer, family member, or employee has asphyxiated or succumbed to toxic gases from the pit. Cases have been reported where several individuals have died while attempting to rescue a coworker or family member from a pit. Nationwide data shows that most deaths occur during the summer months, a time when many producers are emptying pits."

The CDC also released a warning about manure pit dangers as well. A study conducted revealed that many farmers are not aware of the dangers connected to the manure pits located on their properties. Children are at higher risk, but adults should not ignore the danger that pits contain. After this recent accident with Jonas King, Kay Moyer, a farm safety educator with the Lancaster office of the Penn State Cooperative Extension, said the following about fatal accidents on farms, according to Lancaster Online:

"Farming is a risky occupation, next to mining, there are a lot of hazards, and manure pits are one of them."

Moyer did point out that children are more likely to have fatal farm accidents. A four-year-old boy in the area died after a fall into a manure pit four years ago. In 2013, there were 37 fatal farm accidents in Pennsylvania. Manure pits are not the only danger on farms, but they are often ignored completely as a danger.

With the death of Jonas King, it is clear that manure pits can be dangerous. This teen was not doing anything wrong. He was working on the farm. His life ended doing a task he probably did every Saturday morning. He was strapped in and following the laws present in the state when the tractor overturned. Witnesses at the scene reported that the tractor was swallowed almost entirely. The wheels were all that remained visible. Authorities did rush to the site, but the teen still did not survive.

Perhaps his death will bring a new spotlight on the danger present on farms across the country. An accident like this one can happen at any time.