No investigation by OSHA
Authorities won’t confirm identity of victim, 15
A federal agency Friday quickly ended its investigation when it found it did not have jurisdiction in the death of a 15-year-old Whiteside County boy who was fatally injured Thursday while working on a farm near Deer Grove.
The Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department reported Friday morning that the teen had died Thursday night in a Rockford hospital.
Sauk Valley Media received an obituary Friday afternoon for Curvin Levi Kropf, 15, who died Thursday at St. Anthony’s Medical Center in Rockford.
But the identity of the victim could not be confirmed Friday.
Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi said the boy was from a rural area of unincorporated Whiteside County near Deer Grove.
While the farm did not belong to the boy’s mother or father, it was owned by a family member, Wilhelmi said.
Rhonda Burke, a spokeswoman for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, said Friday that an inspector from her agency had left the scene of the accident after determining the farm employed 10 or fewer people, the threshold for OSHA involvement.
She had said earlier that OSHA would check for health or safety violations – such as child labor laws – that might have contributed to the accident.
Wilhelmi said he had contacted OSHA on Thursday, but that the agency appeared to have no jurisdiction over a private family farm with so few employees.
According to a news release, the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department received a phone call at 8 p.m. Thursday from the Winnebago County Coroner’s Office reporting the teen had died.
The boy had been working in a seed-corn field. A tractor-like machine that he fell from was designed to travel along corn rows without squishing the plants, Wilhelmi said.
The sheriff’s department was called about 10:43 a.m. Thursday to the cornfield at 1402 Hoover Road, just south of Deer Grove.
Wilhelmi said it appeared the boy had been riding on the machine to cut individual cornstalks in the field when he fell off and was run over.
The sheriff said that by the time his officers arrived at the scene, the boy already was being taken by ambulance to CGH Medical Center in Sterling. The boy later was airlifted to Rockford.
The Winnebago County Coroner’s Office said an autopsy would not be performed. No report of the teen’s injuries has been released.
“It is a terrible tragedy,” Wilhelmi said. “No matter what, I hate to see anybody die anywhere, especially when it’s a young kid. This is just a terrible, terrible thing for our community. I lost quite a bit of sleep thinking about this.”
The death was the sixth farm-related fatality in the Sauk Valley area in less than 2 years. Five of the victims were in their teens.
Wilhelmi said any job has its occupational hazards.
“The most dangerous thing about detasseling is driving to the farm, on average, ...” he said. “It’s just unfortunate.”
Wilhelmi said he did not know how long the boy had been working on the farm. Children who work on family farms often are put to work at a young age, he said.
Wilhelmi said safety is paramount on farms, saying “everybody’s got to be careful and do the right thing.”
Wilhelmi said his office would release the results of its investigation later.
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