How did a typical day at the farm so quickly turn into a tragedy for the Wuebker brothers?
In this month’s tragic news, three brothers died while working in a manure pit at a farm in Ohio. The three brothers, Gary, Todd, and Brad Wuebker were reportedly found unconscious one afternoon by a rescue crew at the bottom of a manure pit. The men were rescued and taken to a local hospital but later died. According to a local news outlet, the men had entered the manure pit to fix a pump. When the first responders found them, they were trapped in the pit and knocked unconscious by the fumes.
Manure pits are used for storing animal waste that is later used as fertiliser. These pits exude toxic gases that can be quite deadly. The decomposing manure produces hydrogen sulfide, carbondioxide and ammonia. All these gases, according to the National Agriculture Safety Database (NASD) are extremely toxic for humans and animals at high concentrations. These gases, in high concentrations, can also work to displace oxygen in confined spaces and are also responsible for the nasty smell.
In this case, the chief culprit behind the brothers’ death was found to be the high concentration hydrogen sulfide in the manure pit, creating the perfect death trap.
Hydrogen sulfide is the biggest worry when it comes to manure pits. It is notorious for its pungent smell of rotten and for causing irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat when it is inhaled. It paralyses the nerve cells in the nose, and the person affected is no longer able to smell the gas. This leads to them becoming unaware of inhaling the gas. The gas in high concentrations can kill a person in just a couple of breaths. Therefore, it is advised to not enter a manure pit without self-contained air supply, for example, the ones used by firefighters. It is also advised to ventilate the pit using fans or pumps – and people working withing the pit should be rigged up to a safety line so they can be pulled up by others in case they suddenly fall unconscious.