Four de-tasselers released from hospital after crop-spray accident - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Four de-tasselers released from hospital after crop-spray accident

GRUNDY COUNTY (KWWL) -- An afternoon crop dusting accident sent four workers to a hospital Tuesday. It happened a few miles southwest of Grundy Center.

Sheriff Rick Penning said a plane was spraying Headline, a soybean fungicide. It appears the wind caused the chemical to drift over a neighboring corn field, where nearly 30 people were de-tasseling corn.

Four individuals were taken to the Grundy County Memorial Hospital when they developed symptoms of chemical exposure -- including itching, nausea, and headaches. They were treated and released. The other 25 workers in the field washed their skin in a temporary shower and then changed clothes. It appears all of the de-tasselers are going to be okay.

Local aviation experts said, this should be a wake-up for pilots. With more planes in the air, safety should be their top priority.

Eighteen years ago, Joel Meyer started flying his own planes out of an unlikely runway -- his own corn field. Now, he's the president of the Iowa Agriculture Aviation Association. He's watched the industry boom, and when one pilot makes a mistake, they all pay the price.

"If we don't operate on our best interests as ag pilots, our regulating entities are going to take a lot harder look at what we do," said Meyer.

Two separate times in only two weeks, crop dusting planes have accidentally sprayed people with hazardous chemicals.

"Every year we have it, and it seems every year it keeps getting worse," said Rick Penning.

Meyer and Penning believe part of the reason for the growing problem, is the high yield of corn in Grundy County. That's obviously a good thing for the economy, but it also means more workers in the field, and more planes in the air.

"We have to spray fields that are near where these seed fields are, and where the people are working. And we have to be very, very careful that we respect the areas that they're in," said Meyer.

"Sometimes everybody gets going so fast, they have to slow down and be aware of safety factors," Penning added.

Both men believe communication is the key. Pilots and field workers need to let each other know where they're at, and how long their work will take.

"It's a joint effort to be involved in the same geography together. And it's just something we have to do if we want to be safe and be efficient at our job," said Meyer.

The sheriff's department is in contact with the owner of the plane involved. He's located in Parkersburg. They're looking over the pilot's flight records and the owner said he'll take full responsibility if his pilot is responsible for the accident.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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