Newlywed Robert Herweyer, 23, died in a freak accident involving a large vat of molasses just one week before his wife was due to give birth to the couple’s first child. Herweyer drowned in a large container of molasses after he entered the unit to adjust a faulty valve. However, after fixing the valve, the father-to-be’s coworker says Herweyer became unconscious and drowned before he could be retrieved from the container.
The Miami Herald reports that a Michigan father-to-be is dead following a horrifying workplace accident. Robert Herweyer worked for Agri-Technology and was attempting to fix a faulty valve inside of a 12-foot-tall molasses container when he fell unconscious and drowned beneath the syrupy mixture. Herweyer was still a newlywed when the horrific accident took place. He had just married his wife, Joy, last November, and the pair were expecting their first child together next week. Sadly, instead of celebrating the birth of their child together, Joy will be birthing her baby as a widow.
Husband, soon-to-be father drowns in molasses tank while working https://t.co/73ZzektKGq
— KING 5 News (@KING5Seattle) August 5, 2016
According to his coworkers, Herweyer was working at Agri-Technology when a vat of molasses experienced a technical problem. The molasses in the container got too low, and the valve needed to be adjusted so that the unit could continue to pump out the mixture. Therefore, Herweyer put on a pair of waders and a safety mask to protect himself from the fumes in the molasses. He then used straps attached to a forklift to lower himself into the container.
Once inside of the molasses vat, Herweyer adjusted the valve as coworker Kevin Deherrera looked on. However, after adjusting the valve, Deherrera says that Herweyer stopped moving and responding. He says that his friend and coworker wasn’t responding when he asked him what was wrong, so he attempted to remove Herweyer from the vat himself but was unsuccessful. Therefore, Deherrera says he ran for help.
Father-to-be drowns in a vat of molasses at work one week before his first child is due https://t.co/JEbc1foNlw
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) August 4, 2016
The coworker returned with the Agri-Technology owner, David Alexander, who immediately grabbed an electric chainsaw and cut the side of the container open so that they could retrieve Herweyer from the molasses. Once they were able to remove the father-to-be from the vat, Alexander began performing CPR until medical teams could arrive. Once at the hospital, the medical staff was unable to save Herweyer, and he was declared dead.
— KXAN News (@KXAN_News) August 4, 2016
Doctors at the Holland Community Hospital where Herweyer was treated say that the newlywed died from drowning and that they found molasses inside of his lungs. The investigation into the workplace death is still ongoing, but authorities believe that Herweyer was either incapacitated by fumes in the tank or had a medical episode that resulted in his drowning. According to KARE 11, Doug DenBleyker, the Graafschap fire chief who received the call about the freak accident, says that they had no idea what to expect when they arrived at the scene.
He says the 911 calls indicated that someone had fallen into a molasses tank, but they didn’t really know the extent of what had happened until they arrived.
“[I] didn’t know what to expect when we got the call, you’re thinking ‘Molasses,’ what’s going on?”
Chief DenBleyker says when they arrived, they found the company owner giving a man CPR on the floor. He says you could see a large chainsaw had been used to extract the man from the tank, and there was molasses all over the ground.
“There was the molasses mixture all over the ground, and we had seen that they had taken a saw and cut a hole in the side of the tank to get the individual out. The owner of the business was doing CPR at the time, we took over CPR. It was basically like a drowning, he had drowned in the molasses.”
A neighbor nearby says that they could tell the exact moment the molasses container was cut open as the smell of chemicals permeated the area.
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