Girl, 2, dies in farm accident

Skip loader backs over her in barn

May 28, 1999|By Anne Haddad and Mike Farabaugh | Anne Haddad and Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A 2-year-old girl died of head injuries Wednesday night after she walked behind a piece of farm machinery being operated by her 15-year-old brother at the family's farm near Uniontown, Maryland State Police said yesterday.

Mariah Jeanine Mullinix, who turned 2 in January, had been playing in a barn stall shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday while her brother was cleaning another stall with a skid loader, according to police.

Police said the little girl moved behind the machine as it was backing up.

She was flown by MedEvac helicopter to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she was pronounced dead at 9: 19 p.m., said Detective Sgt. Nick Plazio, a state police spokesman.

"The investigation is continuing, but it appears this was a tragic farm accident," he said.

An autopsy is routinely ordered in cases where a death is not from natural causes, Plazio said.

According to a preliminary investigation, the child was playing about 8: 10 p.m. in a stall in the barn at the family farm in the 1100 block of Clear View Road between Union Bridge and Taneytown.

Her father, Thomas, was working nearby, and her brother was operating a skid loader, which is used to muck out stalls, Plazio said. The child apparently left the stall where she was playing and walked behind the skid loader as it was backing out of another stall, he said.

The Sun was unable to reach the family yesterday.

A skid loader is a compact, four-wheeled vehicle that can maneuver in small spaces to scrape and pick up material with a front bucket.

Second farm fatality

Wednesday's accident marked the second farm fatality this week in Central Maryland.

On Sunday in Frederick County, Carol Devilbiss, 52, was killed when a tractor driven by her husband Joseph overturned, according to the Frederick County sheriff's office.

As the tractor moved downhill, the weight of the manure spreader it was towing pushed it forward, causing the tractor to jackknife and overturn on top of the woman, deputies said.

Joseph Devilbiss was thrown from the tractor and suffered minor injuries, deputies said.

State and national statistics on farm accidents are sketchy. Occupational safety agencies usually collect data for farm workers and operators, not for children, and not on small farms with few employees.

A research center in Seattle estimates an average of 104 children died each year in farm accidents between 1990 and 1993, said Shari Burgus, a staff member of the nonprofit Farm Safety 4 Just Kids, based in Earlham, Iowa. The report, which came out in 1997 from Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle, showed a 39 percent drop in child-involved farm accidents from the previous study period in 1979 to 1981.

A plea for safety

Maryland has no comprehensive system for reporting and recording farm accidents for children or adults, said Lee Grant, a retired associate professor at the University of Maryland's biological resources engineering department. Grant focuses on youth and farm safety.

He said some states have a system in which ambulances and hospitals report all farm-related injuries, but Maryland does not. Grant said he and others had lobbied for more farm safety-related positions but were turned down.

He said small children should be kept away from dangerous equipment.

"This is a terrible thing to say at this time, but this is the kind of accident that is preventable," Grant said. "Kids of that age should not be in a barn, period. We keep telling people."

One of the most recent farm machinery-related deaths of a child occurred in northeastern Harford County in June 1997. Vanna Henretta Lewis, 9, died when her father accidentally ran over her with a front-end loader while he was clearing shrubs.

Pub Date: 5/28/99

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