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Death on the farm a grim reality of agricultureDeath on the farm a grim reality of agriculture

August 21, 2013

3 Min Read

Danger is part and parcel of agriculture. Row crops or livestock, grain bins or cotton gins, tractor or trailer, chemicals or heat — death is often a single mistake away. In 2010, there were 621 work-related fatalities in the U.S. agriculture industry.

And globally, ag statistics are no better, and often worse in other countries with scant regulation and oversight. (On Aug. 9, Irish farmer Michael O’Keeffe, 59, died from fume inhalation after dropping his cell phone in plastic-covered silage and attempting to get it. Three years ago, O’Keefe had lost a leg from the knee down in another farming accident.)

A sampling of fatalities from across the U.S. from the past few months:


• Steve Ferdelman, 53, Parkers Prairie, Minn., was killed when his tractor flipped and trapped him as he was pulling out another tractor stuck in mud.

• Warren Mumma, 68, St. Paris, Ohio, died after entering his grain bin to install a secondary auger and was trapped in a corn collapse.


• Sam Saufley, 59, Rockingham County, Va., was trampled and killed by a 1,500-pound bull.

• Timothy Harbison, 41, northern Idaho, fell off his tractor and was run over. He later died as a result of the injuries.

• Larry Goodwin, 62, Waco, Texas, was stung to death by killer bees (3,000 stings) while he was moving brush and disturbed the nest with his tractor. (For more, see Farmer’s death puts national focus on killer bees)

• Mike Wehri, 19, Mott, N.D., was killed while spraying a field after striking a power line.


• Joseph Carl Wagner, 53, Ripon, Calif., was knocked off his tractor by an almond tree branch and died from injuries sustained when the tractor ran over him.

• Michael Steele, 15, Frankford, Mo., was killed when he fell from a tractor and was run over by a trailer.


• Ronald Releford, 66, Hettick, Ill., was spraying weeds when his tractor turned over and trapped him for 10 hours. He later died from the turnover injuries.

• Scott Ferguson, 79, Sulphur Springs, Texas, was trapped and killed after being run over by a tractor.

• Ty Aagard, 25, Manderson, Wyo., was killed in a baler accident. Authorities said Aagard may have been pulled into a hay baler while trying to unplug the machine.

• Terrence Irwin, 62, Kingbury, N.Y., died after his tractor flipped. Irwin was hauling hay when his tractor jackknifed, pinning him underneath.

• Kenneth Hubbard Jr., 77, Erving, Mass., died after falling and being dragged by his draft horses.

Bankrate recently ranked agriculture No. 8 in its The 10 of the most dangerous jobs in the US, stating the following about agriculture: “Working the land may be one of the oldest professions, but new efficient technology has done little to make the job any safer. Long hours and close, consistent contact with heavy machinery and equipment represent the bulk of injuries and fatalities on the job, which is largely represented by transportation incidents.”

(For more on agricultural fatalities, see Farming tragedy shatters family legacy)


Follow me on Twitter: @CBennett71


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