Asphyxia Killed Three in Maryland Farm's Manure Pit

State police reported autopsies confirmed the deaths of a man and his teenage sons who were reported missing May 24 at the dairy farm.

Maryland authorities have confirmed asphyxia as the cause of death for Glen Nolt, 48, and two of his sons, Kelvin, 18, and Cleason, 14, of Peach Bottom, Pa., whose bodies were recovered May 24 from a 2 million-gallon manure pit on a Maryland dairy farm. A 911 call came in around 8 p.m. that day reporting them missing, and Maryland State Police said a still-running tractor was found beside the pit.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore conducted the autopsies, which said the three died of asphyxia, with multiple injuries (apparently inflicted by the propeller on the end of the auger circulating the liquid manure in the pit) listed as an additional cause of death for Cleason Nolt.

The three worked daily at the farm in Kennedyville, Md.

NIOSH published an Alert in May 1990 about preventing deaths in farms' manure pits, citing seven fatalities in two 1989 incidents in that document. It said farm owners and workers both needed to be aware of oxygen-deficient, toxic, and/or explosive atmospheres that can result from fermentation of the waste products in these pits, which are considered confined spaces; the process can produce methane, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and carbon dioxide.

Available at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/90-103/, the Alert references a database showing at least 16 deaths from asphyxiation of workers in manure pits occurred from 1980 through 1985 in nine separate incidents.

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