Deadly manure fumes from a tank the size of a football field killed a 29-year-old farmer in Amherst on Monday, a coroner has revealed.
The manure fumes also killed 16 cows and left others sick, according to WAOW.
Portage County Coroner Scott Rifleman said Michael Biadasz died on Monday after he was exposed to either methane or sulfur oxide fumes from a tank filled with manure that he was about to pump.
About 13 cows also died from coming into contact with the toxic manure fumes. On Wednesday, three more cows reportedly died. It is unclear exactly how many cows are sick as a result of breathing the manure fumes.
While under normal circumstances, these deadly manure fumes escape into the atmosphere, Rifleman described the weather condition on the “foggy, dewy morning” as a “perfect storm,” leading to Biadasz’s death. He explained that since the upper air temperature was warm on that day, the manure fumes could not escape and formed into a “deadly dome of air.”
“When he broke up the hard crust, basically the methane or Sulfur dioxide came out of the manure and was sitting there because there was a heavy fog mass,” Rifleman said.
Biadasz’s body was found at about 6:30 a.m. by other farm workers who had arrived to pump manure out of the tank, WAOW reported.
Rifleman said when emergency workers arrived at the scene, the manure fumes had already dissipated. Bob Biadasz, Michael’s father, said the gas was tasteless and odorless and must have killed his son in only a few seconds, the Washington Times reported.
Rifleman said further tests would be conducted to determine exactly which compound killed Biadasz.
Biadasz is said to have co-owned the Biadasz Farms, where the incident transpired, with his father. He had reportedly emptied the manure-filled tanks multiple times in the past.
Biadasz was laid to rest on Thursday. According to his obituary, a memorial would be created in his name to promote farm safety.
Rifleman explained that it is very rare for someone to be killed by manure fumes in open air, NY Daily News reported.
“I’ve handled a number of similar deaths, but they have all been contained in confined, closed spaces. The concerning factor is that this was in an open air pit,” he said.
Authorities have been warning farmers about the dangers of manure pits for many years. According to the National Agricultural Safety Database (NASD), decomposing matter produces four main gasses: hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. A person could lose consciousness and die from inhaling large quantities of these gasses.
The NASD revealed that deaths from manure fumes tend to occur in the summer when farmers are emptying their pits and tanks. While some non-lethal quantities of these gasses may be present around pits, they escape in large quantities once the surface of the manure is stirred.
The NASD advises farmers to wear a breathing apparatus when working on a manure pit to avoid breathing in harmful fumes. Farmers are also advised to check for the levels of these gasses as well as the oxygen levels in their manure pits.
Rifleman said Baidasz’s family is “absolutely devastated” about his death. Baidasz’s obituary states that his passion was farming.
[Photo by Dinesh Ramde/AP Photo]