Robert HerweyerSAUGATUCK, MI – Authorities say a medical episode or fumes may have contributed to the death of 23-year-old Robert Herweyer who drowned in a vat of molasses last week.

On July 26, Herweyer and a co-worker were pumping molasses out of a 12-foot plastic vat at the Agri-Science Technology Company.

When the molasses got to about two feet deep, Herweyer put on a safety mask and used straps attached to a forklift to climb down into the tank to adjust a valve.

According to the co-worker, when Herweyer grabbed the straps to climb back out, he didn’t move and would not respond to him asking if he was ok.

When the co-worker found he was unable to life Herweyer out of the tank with the straps, he ran to their boss’ office for help.

Their boss, David Alexander, used an electric saw to cut the tank open and pull Herweyer out of the vat and start performing CPR. But it was too late.

Reports say that Herweyer was on his back in the tank and his safety mask was barely visible. By time he was pulled out it was estimated he had been under the molasses for at least four minutes.

While an official cause of death has not been released, a physician who worked on Herweyer at the hospital he was taken to said he had syrup in his lungs and died from drowning.

Last November Herweyer married his wife, Joy, who is due with their first child in the next few days. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise $50,000 for his widow and baby. At the time that I write this, it’s over halfway there.

So I guess we will add “drowning in vat of molasses” to our long list of ways we have reported on people dying on the job. Other ways include suffocating inside a cryochamber, being cooked inside an industrial tuna steamer, drowning in cow shitpinto beans or chocolate, being chewed up inside meat grinders, getting stuck inside industrial dryers, flattened by paper rolling machines, and dying from exploding beer kegs.

But the worst, to me, is getting pulled into a wood chipper.

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