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Couple and their two young children die after drowning in liquid cow manure

By Mason White 5:18 PM October 12, 2014
Cow on farm illustration 

By: Mahesh Sarin
Five people were found dead on a farm after possibly drowning in liquid cow manure, police in Virginia said.

The Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office said that exposure to methane gas killed four family members and their helper.

Investigators were unable to determine if they suffocated from the fumes or drowned in 18 inches of liquid cow manure. No autopsy was scheduled because police believe that the deaths were accidental.

The victims were identified as 34-year-old Scott Showalter, his wife Phyillis, 33, his daughters, Shayla, 11, Christina, 9, and 24-year-old Amous Stoltzfus.

According to the police investigation, Showalter entered a manure pit to unclog a pipe on Monday night, and was quickly overcome by methane gas.

Stoltzfus, who believed that Showalter had a heart attack, went after him and fainted as well. Another farm worker alerted Showalter’s wife, who rushed to the pit followed by Shayla and Christina.

The victims had no warning about the deadly gas that had accumulated in the well. The victims were well known in their community.

The two surviving daughters were being cared for by family members, and friends tended to the animals of the family.