Mercer man dies in accident at Bright Leaf treatment plant

July 16, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - Keith Casey, 53, of Mercer Avenue, died Thursday morning in an accident while he was working on the sewage treatment plant that serves his neighborhood in Bright Leaf Estates subdivision.

Larry Catlett, president of the neighborhood association and a neighbor of Casey's, said today that his neighbor was doing weed control at the plant in preparation for an inspection of Bright Leaf Estates Subdivision Sewage Treatment Cooperative Inc. scheduled for today by the state's Division of Water.

"He was dressing it up for me," Catlett said. "He was a member of the cooperative and had done maintenance for the cooperative since 1991."

Casey had sprayed weeds to kill them and was putting gravel on the space using a small front-end loader, a Mustang Model 2204, that had been rented for the job.


Catlett said Casey was familiar with the equipment, having used it several times. He was putting down gravel over a 6-foot fence in a narrow area. The loader would not fit in the area where the gravel needed to be placed. After dropping the gravel, Casey would have gotten off the loader and spread the gravel with a rake or similar tool. The loader was sitting on an incline, and that led to the accident, Catlett said.

"It's my opinion that after he dropped the load of gravel, he had the shovel fully extended," Catlett said. "As soon as the rock left the shovel, (the loader) slid down the incline with the bucket extended. The bucket broke the top strand of barbed wire, slid down the incline and did a backwards flip and landed upside down."

Catlett said Casey was using all of the safety equipment on the machine, including a seat belt and a roll bar, but something went wrong with the seat. "The latch which held the seat came loose," he said. "It sprung like a mousetrap and pressed him to the front of the thing. ... He should have been hanging upside down held by the bar and the belt, but the seat let go."

Casey was at the plant alone. The accident occurred between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., and no one else was at the plant until about 9:30 a.m., Catlett said

Mercer County Coroner C. David "Sonny" Ransdell said Thursday that he pronounced Casey dead at 10:20 a.m. at the scene of the accident. He said Casey's body was sent to the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort for an autopsy.

Casey's death appeared to be caused by an accident, and Ransdell said this morning that the preliminary cause of death has been deemed to be compression asphyxia. The complete results of the autopsy are not yet available. He said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.

Catlett said Casey was an independent contractor and was being paid for the work he was doing at the plant, but he and Casey were longtime friends.

"He was a good man and a good friend and a conscientious worker," Catlett said this morning. "I cried all day and I'm not over it yet.

"I'm going to miss him. We were neighbors for 20 years. We played together like 12-year-olds for 20 years."

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