It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
The Whiteside County Sheriff's Department says rumors are running rampant about how a group of detasselers came to be shocked in a rural Tampico field.
Two 14-year-old girls were electrocuted in the accident.
Investigators say Jade Garza and Hannah Kendall of Sterling died after coming in contact with an irrigator before 9 a.m. Monday.
Many questions remain about how the accident happened and whether it could have been prevented.
OSHA says it's conducting it's own investigation but so far has few answers.
"We don't know if there was a maintenance issue with it.
We don't have any specifics on the details into this yet," said Scott Allen, OSHA spokesperson. Monsanto, the company the girls worked for, says it doesn't have very many answers either.
Spokesperson Tom Helscher says Monsanto is working with investigators to figure out what happened. Helscher couldn't say whether or not supervisors in the fields are trained in CPR or whether detasselers sign waivers when they're hired, relieving the company of responsibility in the case of an accident.
The Whiteside County Sheriff's department says it's conducting it's own investigation, interviewing witnesses and gathering facts. OSHA says it hopes to complete its investigation in the near future.
"We'll be sure to do a complete investigation into why and how these children were put into jeopardy," said Allen.
"I am saddened by this terrible accident and loss," said Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in a statement released by the company. "We place the highest priority on the safety of our contractors and employees."
Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials were in Tampico on Tuesday gathering more information. OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said the accident investigation could take up to six months to complete.
Tom Helscher, director of corporate affairs for Monsanto, said Tuesday that the company has more than 150 fields where detasseling occurs across north-central Illinois, employing more than 1,000 people.
Detasseling corn is removing the pollen-producing flowers, the tassel, from the tops of corn (maize) plants and placing them on the ground. It is a form of pollination control, employed to cross-breed, or hybridize, two varieties of corn.
The farm is one of several owned by the Matthews couple, who live in Walnut. They contract with Monsanto for the planting and harvesting of their corn crop, saying the company educates its workers on the possible dangers of irrigation systems.
The couple speculated Tuesday that their irrigation equipment, which they said they bought in 1976, had been struck by lightning.
Jade Garza, 14, and Hannah Kendall, 14, both of Sterling, were working for Monsanto Corp. when, the company says, they and two other detasselers were electrically shocked by a center pivot irrigation system. The four were taken to CGH Medical Center in Sterling, where Jade and Hannah were pronounced dead. Another victim remained at CGH for observation while the fourth was airlifted to OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford and was listed in critical condition Tuesday.
Lightning might have struck the mechanical irrigation system believed to have electrocuted two Sterling teens in Whiteside County.
Jade Garza, 14, and Hannah Kendall, 14, were shocked Monday morning after they came into contact with an above-ground farm irrigation system, according to the Whiteside County Sheriff's Office. The girls later were pronounced dead at Community General Hospital in Sterling.
Two other detasselers were injured; one was listed in critical condition on Monday with no update available Tuesday. The four were working for Monsanto as detasselers in a seed corn field on Luther Road north of Tampico near the intersection of Star Road.
"It appears that lightning may have damaged the center pivot irrigation system in the corn field causing it to become electrified," Tom Helscher, a Monsanto spokesman, said Tuesday via e-mail.
But he added the company still does not know for sure how the accident happened. According to Mr. Helscher, the irrigation system was not on when the detasselers were shocked.
Note: ponds in fields all over due to heavy rains over the weekend; was there a lightning strike?; reports have that it may have been struck by lightning on Sunday (KWQC) and, perhaps, no detasseling should have taken place Monday. It was noted by me that being behind schedule may have forced the issue of getting in the field. Monsanto has confirmed that lighting DID strike the irrigator.
From KWQC: In an e-mail, Monsanto spokesperson Tom Helscher writes "lightning damage to the power supply for the irrigator has been observed. However, to our knowledge exactly how or if that may have contributed to the accident has not been determined and investigation of the matter is still underway."
Chris Minor Reporter
July 28, 2011 ROCK FALLS, Ill.
— Monsanto Corporation is now changing protocol in corn fields connected with the agricultural giant, after two teens working for the company were electrocuted detasseling corn earlier this week.
Monsanto corporate spokesman Tom Heschler says irrigation systems in the fields will now be required to be unplugged and turned off at the source, and the irrigator itself moved out of the detasseling area.
2 Sterling teens die after being electrocuted while detasseling
"We're asking the growers to de-energize the electrical systems and to park the system appropriately and confirm that has been done before a crew can enter the field," Heschler said from his St. Louis office Thursday afternoon.