Farmer dies in tractor accident

May 24, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County dairy farmer died Monday afternoon when he was pinned underneath a tractor.

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Robert A. Hawkins was loading a rolled bale of hay at the Zigler farm on Roper North Fork Road near Charles Town when the John Deere 3020 tractor he was riding rolled onto him around 1:35 p.m., farm co-owner Richard Zigler said.

Hawkins, 38, was pronounced dead at the scene from massive head injuries, Jefferson County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Jesse Jones said.

Police deemed the death accidental, Jones said.

Witnesses told police Hawkins was backing up the tractor when it tipped, Jones said.

"I don't know if he turned too short or if the front edge (of the tractor) got over the bank and he lost the steering," Zigler said.


Hawkins was driving the tractor on uneven ground and one of its wheels could have slipped on rain-slick grass, Zigler said.

Monday's death was the first fatal accident on the Zigler's 170-cow family-owned dairy farm, Zigler said.

Hawkins had worked at the Zigler farm for about 13 years and lived on the farm with his wife, Darlene, and his son, Robbie, said Zigler.

A stepdaughter, Tammy Larrick, is in the U.S. Army and is stationed in Korea, Zigler said.

"He was a good employee and a dependable worker," Zigler said.

Darlene Hawkins was "devastated and broken up" by her husband's death, he said.

Hawkins enjoyed fishing and boating with friends along the Shenandoah River, Zigler said.

Watching as other farm workers used a larger tractor to upright the tipped John Deere a few hours after the accident, Zigler said Hawkins' death showed why dairy farming can be a hazardous occupation.

"With the animals and the machines it can be as dangerous as deep-shaft coal mining," he said. "You just have to go on and cope with it the best you can."

Monday's accident was the second tractor-related death in two days in the Tri-State area.

A Frederick, Md., woman was died Sunday morning after the tractor on which she and her husband were riding jackknifed at the bottom of a hill, according to the Frederick County Sheriff's Office.

Carol Lynn Devilbiss, 52, of Sundays Lane, was pronounced dead at the scene after she was pinned under the tractor.

Her husband, Joseph Devilbiss, was thrown clear of the John Deere tractor, which was pulling a fertilizer spreader.

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