The two teens who died last month in a grain bin accident in Mount Carroll, Ill., were standing in corn as the unloading system operated, carrying corn away from the bin by a conveyor system beneath the bin, details released Friday revealed.
Wyatt Whitebread, 14, “found himself sinking into the corn,” according to a news release from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department and the Carroll County Coroner, and Alex Pacas, 19, and Will Piper, 20, went to his aid.
“Wyatt Whitebread was completely engulfed in the corn, and soon after, Alex Pacas was engulfed in the corn,” the release said. “Will Piper remained with his head above the corn.”
Whitebread and Pacas died of “traumatic asphyxiation, due to being engulfed in corn,” officials said.
Piper was rescued and flown to OSF St. Anthony Hospital in Rockford, Ill., where he was treated and eventually released.
Authorities also revealed that another teen, age 15, was in the bin. He got out of the bin and called for help. It is illegal for teens under the age of 16 to be working in grain bin, officials with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, or OSHA, have said.
Furthermore, there were no required safety harnesses or ropes, and “there was no spotter to allow immediate shutdown of the grain unloading system at the time of the accident,” the news release says.
The incident happened July 28, shortly before 10 a.m. at a bin operated by Haasbach LLC of Mount Carroll. Multiple agencies responded, cutting holes into the side of the bin to get the three out.
OSHA has six months to complete an investigation, officials have said. OSHA has a range of penalties that include up to $70,000 each for what it calls “willful” violations committed intentionally or with “plain indifference” to the law.
Criminal charges against individuals and corporations also are a possibility.
Charges carry the possibility of up to a $250,000 fine for an employee, $500,000 for a corporation, and six months in prison.