Skip to comments.Midwest Teenage Rite Ends in Tragedy
Posted on 07/29/2011 9:12:24 AM PDT by reaganaut1
TAMPICO, Ill.A summer rite of passage for tens of thousands of Midwestern teenagers turned to a time of mourning for two 14-year-old girlsneighbors and best friendswho were electrocuted in a muddy field as they removed tassels from corn.
The teenagers, Hannah Kendall and Jade Garza, were killed Monday after they came in contact with irrigation equipment or a nearby puddle conducting high voltage. Authorities said the incident was under investigation, but local farmers blamed irrigation system damage caused by a weekend lightning strike.
"It's one of those one-in-a-billion things," said Doug Mitchell, a farmer whose property abuts the field where the accident occurred and saw the electric meter box after it was struck by lightning.
Eight other people were also shocked, two seriously, authorities said.
Across the city of Sterling, 100 miles west of Chicago, where the girls lived, makeshift memorials hung on street corners and at the high school they were set to attend. Corn detasseling is considered prime summer work for teenagers across much of the corn belt; almost everyone here has spent a summer detasseling or knows someone who has.
"We're all shaken up," said Tim Duncan, a high-school history teacher who has led a crew of teenagers in the fields every summer for the past 26 years. "That could have happened to any one of us."
As corn plants mature, seed companies hire crews of mostly students at about $8 an hour to remove the topscalled the tassel. That ensures that only the pollen from select plants with the tassel left intact will pollinate the corn. The tassel is kept on corn raised for consumption instead of seed.
Early-morning fields are typically covered with dew, and frequently muddy from rain, so workers are wet all morning.
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It is a sad story. But detasseling corn is not a rite of passage in the Midwest or anywhere else. It’s a summer job.
We made good money walking beans and detasseling corn in the summer time in the early 80’s. (Iowa) I made $100 a week. It was so much money for a 14 yr old.
I know I never did it and I spent years working on a farm.
Correct. Been there. Done that. Correct safety equipment is rubber hip waders or, at least, knee high rubber boots. You check them for leaks before you go in because possible current isn’t the only hazzard. There are also snakes you can see and water or mud-borne organisms which you can’t.
Tragic situation with these 2 girls, just heartbreaking.
This is near me.
The pivot was hit by lightening the night before, and the farmer called an electrician. He didn’t have a chance to check it out before the accident.
The pivot was switched “off”, and they have not release just how it was still live. The local OSHA inspector said he has never heard of a case like this.
Very sad. Funerals are today.
It is a sad story. But detasseling corn is not a rite of passage in the Midwest or anywhere else. Its a summer job.
Yeah, what a stupid headline and first sentence. I really thought I was going to read about some dumb teen prank that had gone bad.