A federal agency says it is investigating the death of Curvin Kropf, 15, of Tampico, who was fatally injured Thursday when he was run over by a tractor-like machine while working on a farm near Deer Grove.
Sheriff Kelly Wilhelmi said he contacted the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Thursday, but the agency appears to have no jurisdiction over a private family farm with 10 or fewer employees.
OSHA spokeswoman Rhonda Burke said today (Friday) an inspector was at the scene of the accident.
"OSHA has up to six months to complete the investigation," she said. "We look to see if there were health or safety violations that contributed to the incident."
She said part of the investigation will determine whether a child-labor violation or other factor might have contributed to the accident.
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. The tractor-like machine that he fell from was designed to go down 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 was riding on the machine to cut individual cornstalks in the field when he fell off and was run over.
The sheriff said by the time his officers arrived at the scene, the boy was already being taken via 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.
"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."
Wilhelmi said there are occupational hazards with any job.
"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 are often 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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