Health & Safety, OSHA

Lawsuit Filed in Teen’s Corn Detasseling Death

From WREX.com, Rebecca Klopf, 5 Aug 2011.

Hannah Kendall (left) and Jade Garza (right) courtesy of Facebook.com.

Hannah Kendall (left) and Jade Garza (right) courtesy of Facebook.com.

ROCKFORD, IL (WREX) – The family of a teenager electrocuted while detasseling corn files a lawsuit. Hannah Kendall’s father claims the farm owner and the company that contracted his daughter was negligent in her death.

Brian Kendall claims Hannah’s death could have been prevented and says the Monsanto company and others should pay. His attorney filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday, August 4th in Rockford.

“The information that we have so far is that there was an appreciated, understood, electrical problem with connections to the irrigation system there and nothing was done about it obviously, prior to the kids going out there and as a result two deaths and serious injuries have occurred,” says Todd Smith, Attorney at Power Rogers & Smith, P.C.

Hannah Kendall, 14, and Jade Garza, 14, were killed July 25th while they were detasseling corn in a field owned by Donald and Virginia Matthews.  A Chicago Tribune article from August 1st claims Donald Matthews told reporters there was a lightning strike that hit the electric system connected to the irrigation equipment.  It happened a few days before the girls’ deaths.  Matthews said they were trying to get someone to fix it.

“The actual owner and her husband gave instructions that the electricity should be shut off to that system but it was obliviously not done.  Because as it turns out on Monday you still have electrical supply getting to the ground water,” says Smith.

Brian Kendall filed a wrongful death suit against ComEd, which runs the electric meter hit by lightning, the Matthews, who own the field, and the agriculture company, Monsanto, which has a contract with the farmers.

Monsanto released this statement about the accident:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of these two teenagers. As a member of the community, we are continuing to work with law enforcement officials and OSHA as they investigate this unforeseeable accident. Until OSHA’s accident investigation is complete, we believe that any comment regarding the cause of this event is premature and unjustified. Importantly, there is no basis to today’s statement by this plaintiffs lawyer that Monsanto knew there was an electrical hazard in the field. Monsanto did not have prior knowledge of any dangerous condition otherwise the crew would have never been allowed to enter the field. Safety is paramount at Monsanto. We place the highest priority on the safety of our contractors and employees. We continue to express our sincere condolences to the families that have lost loved ones in this unforeseeable accident,” reads the statement.

13 News contacted ComEd and the Matthews family, but neither returned out call. 13 News was unable to find working numbers for Kevin Larkey and R & J Enterprises who were also named in the suit.

The attorney for Brian Kendall says despite the Occupations Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) not completely it’s investigation, they are moving forward with the lawsuit to make sure evidence is preserved.

“Things like this are not supposed. They are completely preventable,” says Smith.

Source and additional photos: WREX.com, “Lawsuit filed in teen’s corn detasseling death” by Rebecca Klopf, 5 Aug 2011.

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