Anthony Borrelli. From ithacajournal. Posted on Dec 01, 2016. Original article.
Prosecutors say the death of a 14-year-old boy in 2015 on a Cortland County farm has yielded a 15-count indictment for felonies and child labor law violations against a Homer man.
Luke Park, owner of the Park Family Farm on East River Road in Homer, was arraigned Wednesday in Cortland County Court in connection with the July 1, 2015 death of Alex Smith, who was pinned under a hydraulic lift and bale of hay, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The boy was operating the lift in violation of state child labor laws, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors say Smith had been operating a New Holland LS170 Skidloader with a hydraulic lift and fork attachment — that is prohibited by child labor law — in an attempt to prepare bales of hay for cow feed.
Park admitted to state police he found the boy’s body pinned beneath the equipment, with the engine of the Skidloader still running, according to prosecutors.
An autopsy concluded the boy’s chest and abdomen were crushed, officials say, and his death was the result of mechanical asphyxiation.
“Child labor laws exist so something like this never happens, and those who do not comply must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
Park is also accused of employing other minors on his dairy farm, prosecutors say, requiring them to work about 60 hours a week — exceeding the 48-hour per week maximum for teenagers ages 16 and 17 while school is not in session.
Many employees were paid off the books, prosecutors say, resulting in alleged underpayment in Unemployment Insurance Contributions of more than $10,000.
Park has been scheduled to return to county court Jan. 13 for further proceedings. He is presumed innocent of the charges until proven guilty in court, prosecutors said.
According to Schneiderman’s office, the state’s child labor laws have strict guidelines: Among them, certain absolute prohibitions when it comes to use of hydraulic lift machinery and ensuring working hours do not interfere with education.
When school is in session, Schneiderman said, 16-and-17-year-olds are limited to no more than the following hours for most occupations: 28 hours in any week when school is in session and 48 hours per week during vacation or summertime.
The law also requires minors to obtain an employment certificate, or “working papers,” Schneiderman said. Exceptions exist for certain jobs such as babysitting or newspaper carriers.