Soon-to-Be-Dad Dies in Molasses Vat at Work

Robert Herweyer had just married and was expecting his first child
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 5, 2016 8:16 AM CDT
Soon-to-Be-Dad Dies in Molasses Vat at Work
Joy and Robert Herweyer on their wedding day.   (GoFundMe)

(Newser) – Robert Herweyer had much to look forward to. The 23-year-old had married in November, just moved into a new home with wife Joy, and was expecting his first child with her any day now. But a tragic accident cut all that short when the Michigan man died in a molasses tank at work late last month, per WOOD. Herweyer was helping to pump out a 12-foot-tall vat at Agri-Science Technologies in Saugatuck on the morning of July 26 when the molasses level got too low to reach the pump-out valve, a co-worker says. So Herweyer put on a pair of wading boots and a safety mask so he could descend into the tank via a forklift and straps and adjust the valve—but things started to go amiss once he had fixed the valve, reports.

The co-worker says Herweyer grabbed the straps to start the climb back out, but he suddenly stopped moving and wouldn't respond to his co-worker's yells. The co-worker ran to get their boss, who used an electric saw to cut into the tank and yank out Herweyer, who witnesses say had been submerged in the molasses. He's believed to have been under the syrupy liquid for at least four minutes. Although the sheriff's department hasn't yet issued an official cause of death, the ER physician who took Herweyer in said he had syrup in his lungs and had drowned. Michigan's OSHA is investigating the incident to make sure there were no workplace violations. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe page has raised more than $32,000 so far for Joy and their soon-to-arrive baby. (A North Carolina teen died in a wood chipper on his first day of work.)

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