A 53-year-old full-time farmer (the victim) was crushed to death when the tractor he was operating overturned. At 1:45 pm, the victim was moving a large round bale of hay with a hay spike mounted on the front of a tractor. The tractor was not equipped with a rollover protective structure (ROPS) or a seatbelt. The farmer, who was sharecropping, was moving rolled hay from a field to a wagon in preparation for transportation to his farm. Hydraulics were used to lift the approximately 1500-pound spiked bale, and the farmer began driving toward the wagon. He proceeded along a tobacco field road, which was bordered on the left by a tobacco field and on the right by a three-acre grass covered sinkhole. (See figure 1.) The field road was approximately 12 feet wide and went along the upper rim of the sinkhole at a slope of nearly 25 degrees downward into the sinkhole. The tractor overturned 180 degrees, resting on the left wheel and pinning the victim against the ground. A farmer in a neighboring field witnessed the event and immediately came to assist the victim. Unable to assist, he went for help. The victim was pronounced dead by the coroner at the scene. In order to prevent similar incidents, it is recommended that:

  • tractors be retrofitted with rollover protective structures (ROPS) and seatbelts;
  • tractor operators evaluate field roads and determine a safe travel route prior to use of such roads; and,
  • tractor operators consider using rear-mounted attachments to transport round bales.

Document Type


Release Date


Incident Number