Farmworker Children, Health & Safety, OSHA, Work Hazards

Funerals for Detasselers are Friday

From QCTimes.com, Quad-City Times, Brian Wellner, 27 Jul 2011.

From left, Alexis Gomer, Hannah Kendall and Jade Garza, all of Sterling, Ill., detasseled corn together. Hannah and Jade were electrocuted Monday while detasseling in Tampico, Ill. (Contributed photo)

From left, Alexis Gomer, Hannah Kendall and Jade Garza, all of Sterling, Ill., detasseled corn together. Hannah and Jade were electrocuted Monday while detasseling in Tampico, Ill. (Contributed photo)

[Sterling, IL] — Funeral services are set for two 14-year-old girls who were electrocuted Monday while detasseling corn at a Whiteside County farm.

Jade Garza, 14, and Hannah Kendall, 14, both of Sterling, Ill., were working for Monsanto Corp. when, the company says, they were electrically shocked by a center pivot irrigation system.

Jade’s visitation is 5-8 p.m. Thursday at McDonald Funeral Home, 1002 12th Ave., Rock Falls, and her funeral is 1:30 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.

Hannah’s visitation is 4-7 p.m. Thursday at McDonald Funeral Home, 505 1st Ave., Sterling, and her funeral is 10 a.m. Friday at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 703 3rd Ave., Sterling.

Two other detasselers also were injured by electrical shocks Monday. Delanie Knapp, 14, was in serious condition Wednesday at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, Ill. Her sister, Bailey Knapp, 15, has been treated at CGH Medical Center in Sterling and released.

Meanwhile, investigators are still trying to determine what caused Monday’s accident.

The 160-acre farm field near Tampico is owned by Donald “Goody” Matthews and his wife, Virginia, of Walnut. They speculated Tuesday that their irrigation equipment, which they said they bought in 1976, had been struck by lightning.

Tom Helscher, a spokesman for Monsanto, said Wednesday that “damage from a lightning strike may have been a factor in the accident.”

The Matthews couple contracts with Monsanto for the planting and harvesting of their corn crop.

A team from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was continuing its investigation Wednesday. When asked if lightning may have been a factor, spokesman Scott Allen said that’s speculation.

“We’re looking at all the facts,” Allen said. “We don’t have the determination as to the cause as of yet.”

The investigation could take up to six months to complete, he said.

OSHA is working with the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office and Commonwealth Edison to investigate the cause.

In a news release issued Wednesday, ComEd representative Bennie Currie said the company is working with local authorities and the property owner to determine what happened and whether any ComEd equipment was involved.

“We do not own irrigation equipment,” Currie said in the statement.

The Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office also would not comment on the possibility of a lightning strike.

“We’re putting the pieces together at this time,” Lt. Andy Henson said. “People are mourning and learning. Everything is too fresh at this point.”

Henson said Monsanto’s detasseling crews were back out in the farm fields Wednesday. The company temporarily ceased its work at the location after the accident.

Henson said that when he was a teenager, he used to detassel over the summer for $5 an hour. He added that he cannot recall if he was ever told to stay away from the irrigators.

Source: QCTimes.com, “Funerals for detasselers are Friday” by Brian Wellner, 27 Jul 2011.

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