Farmer 'accidentally buried alive' in Carver County ditch

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A farmer in Carver County died after he was "accidentally buried alive" in a ditch on his farm Sunday.

Dennis Lenzen, 78, of Dahlgren Township, was installing drainage tile in a ditch in his farm field when an employee pushed dirt into the ditch to hold the drainage tile in place and accidentally buried Lenzen, according to the Carver County Sheriff's Office.

The employee called 911 for help and then dug with his hands in an attempt to rescue Lenzen. Emergency responders arrived and located Lenzen, who was pronounced dead at the scene, WCCO reports.

The farm is located southwest of Chaska along County Road 43, just south of Hwy. 212.

Farm safety

Farming is one of the most hazardous occupations, according to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, in part due to the heavy machinery that farmers use in their daily operations. According to the agency:

– The fatality rate for agricultural workers was seven times higher than the fatality rate for all workers in private industry in 2011; agricultural workers had a fatality rate of 24.9 deaths per 100,000, while the fatality rate for all workers was 3.5.

– The leading cause of death for farmworkers between 1992 and 2009 was tractor overturns, accounting for more than 90 deaths each year.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 123 agriculture workers were killed in farm accidents nationwide in 2013. That's a 19 percent decrease from the year before.

In Minnesota, 11 agriculture workers were killed in 2013 – six of them in a transportation accident of some kind, and five involving "contact with objects or equipment."

Ag officials are urging Minnesota farmers to be cautious during this year's corn harvest, noting that the record corn crop may make farmers more vulnerable to becoming trapped in grain bins.

Grain bin accidents are a leading cause of injury among farmers, as the long hours and stress of harvesting can lead to a casual attitude towards their own safety.

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