A North Carolina teenager died one of the most horrific workplace deaths imaginable on his first day on the job. Mason Cox, 19, died on Saturday after being pulled feet-first into a wood chipper, police in Kings Mountain say. WSOC reports that co-workers who had been cutting down trees in a yard were so distressed by the sight of Cox's body that they ran around ripping off their gloves and hats, causing neighbors to think that they were being attacked by bees. Police say John Crawford (some sources have him listed as Jon Crawford), the owner of Crawford's Tree and Stump Grinding Service, was hospitalized after having a heart attack at the scene, the station reports.
Officials tell WRAL that Cox apparently became caught in the machine when he tried to kick a tree limb inside and his clothing snagged. Crawford, who has temporarily shut down the business, says Cox had been assigned a task considered safe for a beginner. "I've been in the business for 26 years. I've had one other accident where a person was injured. Mason Cox was working side by side with two experienced employees," he tells WBTV, adding that he is grief-stricken over the incident. "I have not slept. I am sick from it," he says. "I would trade places with that child right now." Cox's mother says she started screaming when she discovered how he died. "I loved him very much and I'm going to miss him very much," she tells WBTV. (This state is the deadliest for US workers.)