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OSHA investigating incident at Illini Swine

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 11:47 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013 12:40 a.m. CDT

KINGSTON – The 47-year-old farmhand rescued from a manhole at a swine farm Monday was upgraded to serious condition at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford as federal authorities began an investigation.

The farmhand was airlifted from Illini Swine, 11469 Base Line Road outside Kingston, about two hours after his coworkers found him unconscious Monday 15 feet down a manhole, authorities said. He was listed in critical condition about 3 a.m. Tuesday and improved during the day.

Illini Swine General Manager Charles Schelkopf said it would be premature for him to comment on the incident itself.

"At this time, our biggest concern is with him and his family and his health," said Schelkopf, who described the hospitalized farmhand as a dedicated employee of at least 20 years.

Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's North Aurora Area Office opened an investigation into the incident after receiving a report about it from the media, OSHA spokesman Scott Allen said. An employer is required to report an incident involving a fatality or three workers being hospitalized, Allen said.

"Our investigator or investigators will begin by talking to the employer, employees, and any potential witnesses to try to find out what was going on there," Allen said.

The investigation will explore whether proper workplace regulations were followed; Illini Swine could be fined and ordered to address any concerns that are found, Allen said. He expected the investigation would take at least three months.

DeKalb County Sheriff Chief Deputy Gary Dumdie said the employee went into the manhole Monday to do maintenance on a manure pit at the swine farm, which is east of Pleasant Hill Road south of Kingston. Two other men went down to check on him after no one had heard from him for a period of time and found him unconscious about 6 p.m.

The other two workers remained with him as emergency crews assembled, Dumdie said. After the rescue, crews took the two farmhands who helped the first worker to Kishwaukee Hospital, Dumdie said.

A nursing supervisor said those two men were not at the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

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