2 Teen Workers Trapped Inside Grain Bin Die in Illinois

MOUNT CARROLL, Ill., July 29, 2010

[This brings to 4 the number of young workers who died in grain silos in the Midwest this summer.from CBSNews.com:]

Rescuers Drain Thousands of Pounds of Corn to Free Trapped Workers from Bin in Ill.; OSHA Says Accident “Very Preventable”

(AP) A grain bin accident that left two teenagers dead and a third hospitalized could have been prevented and preliminary investigations found one worker was underage and employees lacked safety equipment, a federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration spokesman said Thursday.

“This was very preventable,” said OSHA spokesman Scott Allen in the Department of Labor’s Chicago office. “There are OSHA regulations that should have been followed and it appears they were not.”

Authorities were called around 10 a.m. Wednesday to a bin owned by Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll in northwestern Illinois, about 60 miles northeast of the Quad Cities. Rescue workers cut holes in the sides of the bin and drained thousands of pounds of corn to free the trapped workers. The bin was half full and can hold 500,000 bushels of shelled corn, authorities said.

The three employees were working inside the bin at the co-op company when the accident happened, Allen said. A fourth worker outside the bin was not injured.

Haasbach did not return telephone messages Thursday seeking comment.

Two workers – Alejandro Pacas, 19, and Wyatt Whitebread, 14 – were pulled from the grain bin after 10 p.m. Wednesday and pronounced dead, the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. A third worker, William Piper, 20, remained in fair condition at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Rockford, a hospital spokeswoman said. All three were from Mount Carroll.

A preliminary investigation found none of the three workers was wearing safety harnesses or had life lines, Allen said. Allen said it’s “a preventable accident and it’s just unacceptable.”

Allen also said the 14-year-old deceased worker should not have been inside the grain bin.

“There was no reason for anyone under the age of 18 to be doing work inside the bin,” Allen said.

OSHA statistics show 16 fatalities in grain bin accidents in Illinois from 1998 to 2008.

OSHA has six months to complete its investigation and any violations and monetary penalties are pending, Allen said. OSHA already has conducted interviews with employees, owners and individuals who were on the scene for the rescue, he said.

The Carroll County Sheriff’s Department and the Carroll County coroner are also investigating.