No Citations in Deadly Illinois Cornfield Accident

January 27, 2012

Citations won’t be filed after two young farm workers were electrocuted while removing tassels from corn in rural northwestern Illinois last summer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Wednesday.

Jade Garza and Hannah Kendall, both 14, of Sterling died July 25 while de-tasseling corn in a field near the village of Tampico in Whiteside County. Eight people were injured. OSHA’s investigation into R&J Enterprises of Illinois Inc. and Monsanto Corp. found an “unfortunate accident,” agency spokesman Scott Allen said.

“The evidence collected does not show any indication that these two entities could have reasonably recognized the actual hazardous conditions,” Allen said.

The investigation found lightening may have struck the field’s irrigation system, Allen said. About 72 people working for St. Louis-based Monsanto Corp. were de-tasseling corn when the accident occurred.

Hannah Kendall’s father, Brian Kendall, filed a lawsuit against St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto in August, claiming his daughter’s death could have been prevented. Monsanto has denied the Kendall family’s claims, saying crews wouldn’t have been allowed to work in the cornfield if the company knew there was an electrical hazard.

OSHA has issued hazard alert letters to the land owners, the two companies and Commonwealth Edison, Allen said. The agency also has notified the agricultural and electrical power industries of the investigation’s findings and of corrective actions.

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