LAKEVILLE — One man was killed in Livingston County after deputies say he and another man put fertilizer into a covered train car known as a hopper.
Deputies say the incident happened in Lakeville along the Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad. According to deputies, the man who died fell in with the fertilizer. Deputies Wednesday were interviewing another man about what happened.
"We believe right now that the fertilizer that offloads became jammed and wouldn’t successfully unload,” said Livingston County Undersheriff Matt Bean. “The employees were possibly trying to get that fertilizer to break up or get into a state where it could be offloaded. But that’s still preliminary in our investigation.”
"I've never seen anything like that. I didn't expect it. I was hoping he was still breathing up there but as you know fertilizer just keeps caving on you," said Charles Keiser, who immediately jumped into action when he noticed that someone was trapped under fertilizer inside this covered train car.
"I had a five-pound hammer and I was just swinging it in there trying to break up the clumps," said Keiser. "And there were times where a lot of the fertilizer was falling off from the bottom rather quickly to the point where we couldn't control it all."
Keiser's coworker, Terry Johnson, also tried to help, but it was too late. "I feel terrible about it, you know," says Johnson. "The guy just had to go to work and now his family's not going to see him again."
The two men and others were frantically shoveling fertilizer out of the train car until paramedics arrived.
"When first responders and the sheriff's deputies arrived on scene, they determined that they no longer could make a rescue effort — it became into a recovery," Bean said.
Bean said because of the weather, the fertilizer clumped, jamming the train car. Investigators are still not sure if the worker went into the car to clear the clog or if he fell in.
"I'm still in shock," said Keiser. "I can't believe it happened."