July 20, 2016
By Stephanie West
Syracuse, NY – A 14-year-old was killed operating heavy machinery prohibited under child Labor laws. Luke Park, owner of the Park Family Farm located in Homer, New York, has been charged for multiple alleged Penal Law and Labor Law violations related to this child's death.
According to the felony complaint filed by the Attorney General's Office, on July 1, 2015 the boy died when he was allegedly operating a New Holland LS170 Skidloader with a hydraulic lift and fork attachment. Child labor laws explicitly prohibit the operation of such equipment by minors. The boy was operating the equipment in an attempt to prepare bales of hay for cow feed on the farm in Homer, New York. The defendant, Luke Park, admitted to the State Police that he found the boy’s body pinned underneath the hydraulic lift and bale of hay, with the engine of the Skidloader still running. The medical examiner’s autopsy concluded that the chest and abdomen were crushed resulting in his death by mechanical asphyxiation.
“Child labor laws were enacted to protect the safety of our children and to avoid terrible yet foreseeable tragedies like the one alleged in this case,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Adults have a responsibility to protect our children, and when an employer places a minor in harm’s way, that employer will be held responsible and prosecuted.”
Mr. Park was arraigned on 8 felony counts of Falsifying Business Records and Filing False Unemployment Insurance Contribution Returns with the State and 7 misdemeanor counts including Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Illegal Hours of Work for Minors, Prohibited Employment of Minors, and the Willful Failure to Pay Unemployment Insurance Contributions.
In addition to the child safety violations, the felony complaint also alleges Mr. Park employed other minors on his dairy farm and required them to work approximately 60 hours a week which exceeds the 48 hour per week maximum for 16 and 17 year olds when school is not in session. Records also revealed that many employees were allegedly paid off-the-books, resulting in an underpayment in unemployment insurance contributions amounting to over $9,000.
On average 113 youth less than 20 years of age die annually from farm related injuries, with most of these deaths occurring to youth 16-19 years of age. Machinery is the leading source of farm related fatal injuries to youth. In New York State in 2013, 20.4 percent of all fatalities in the farming, fishing and forestry sector were youth less than 20 years of age. This was twice the national average.
“Tragic cases like this one serve as a stark reminder that child labor laws are in place for a very good reason,” said State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “Minors should never be exploited or placed in harm’s way at work. It’s imperative that those who endanger children are exposed and brought to justice.”