Pest-control contractor accidentally shoots Turner egg farm worker

TURNER — A pest-control contractor who was shooting at vermin in a Moark Egg Farm barn on Monday afternoon mortally shot a farmhand, according Assistant Attorney General William Stokes. The farmhand died en route to the hospital.

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A 57-year-old worker at Moark Egg farm in Turner was fatally shot in one of the chicken barns Monday. The shooting is under investigation.

“It’s not intentional,” Stokes said shortly after returning from the massive egg farm that stretches over several acres in the small Androscoggin County town located about 10 miles north of Lewiston.

“The employee was wounded as another worker was shooting a .22-caliber rifle to kill rodents and stray chickens inside one of the farm’s chicken barns, that was being cleaned out,” said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. “The victim, who is 57, collapsed attempting to leave the barn and died as he was being transported by ambulance to a Lewiston hospital.”

Stokes, who leads the criminal division in the Maine attorney general’s office, said the pest control contractor who fired the gun has not been charged. He was hired by Moark and travels from farm to farm cleaning barns and was with another local farm employee when the shooting occurred.

“It does not appear that they were even aware what happened,” Stokes said. “As far as we know, they did not see him.”

The name of the man who died has not been released because his relatives live out of state and have not been notified, McCausland said. Police have traced his family to Texas, but have yet to contact them, Stokes said late Tuesday.

While the contractor was using the gun to kill pests and stray chickens in Barn 51, “the third individual — the victim — at some point came into that barn and suffered a gunshot wound,” the assistant attorney general said.

“There was a blood trail,” Stokes said. “He went quite a distance from where he was shot, through some other barns, and collapsed in Barn 49 and was found by another employee.”

Investigators are not sure when he was shot or when he collapsed, Stokes said.

A team of Maine State Police detectives spent Monday evening at the farm interviewing employees and investigating the circumstances, he said.

“It is a massive complex,” McCausland said.

Before a new flock is brought into a barn, the previous chickens need to be removed and the entire barn cleaned to maintain health standards, Stokes said.

“You can’t put that stray chicken in with the new flock,” he said, explaining that there are health and safety issues with mixing egg laying flocks.

The state medical examiner’s office in Augusta was expected to perform an autopsy on the victim Tuesday.

Details about the shooter will be released when the deceased’s name is released, McCausland and Stokes said.

The farm is the former DeCoster Egg Farm. Moark LLC, a subsidiary of Land O’ Lakes, signed a long-term lease purchase deal on the old DeCoster Egg Farm at the end of 2011 and assumed operations.

“We are cooperating with local law enforcement as they continue their investigation,” Land O’ Lakes spokeswoman Trish Scorpio said Tuesday in an email. “Additionally, we are launching our own investigation into this incident.”

“Our thoughts are with this employee’s family, friends and coworkers during this difficult time,” Scorpio said.

The Moark farm is owned, in part, by food giant Land O' Lakes.

The farm was formerly owned by Austin "Jack" DeCoster and was known as DeCoster Egg Farm.

Moark LLC, a subsidiary of Land O’ Lakes, signed a long-term lease purchase deal on the old DeCoster Egg Farm at the end of 2011 and assumed operations.

Moark also operates egg farms in California, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Ohio and Massachusetts.

The federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration is also investigating, an agency specialist in Augusta said.

OSHA's Karen Billups said the death resulting from an injury at the workplace prompted the federal investigation.

She said OSHA could not say whether the use of firearms at the egg farms was a common practice in Maine.

"That's part of what we are investigating," Billups said.

BDN writer Alex Barber and Sun Journal staff contributed to this report

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 's picture

How is this a safe method???

This just sounds sketchy to me. I don't believe that they feel that it is safe for someone to just go around shooting things while the farm is in operation! At the very least, there should be signs posted and workers should be out of the barns while the "contractor" was playing with his gun. This was a completely unnecessary death and it is a sad story.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

How can this method be acceptable????

Those barns are massive, they are in very close proximity to one another. Thjere are usually vehicles traveling on, around, and thru the complex. I used to own a house that abutted the old DeCosta properties. How can they allow a guy with a rifle to just wander around picking off rats chickens and who know what else? I really doubt the walls of those barns would stop even a .22 round. Seems to me, that there must be a safer more reliable method of rodent control. Other large plants use them....

Bob White's picture

I bet they wont do it again

I bet they wont do it again though

 's picture

Must be boring in Hawaii?!!

Daily comments here make me think life must be really boring in "Hawaii"?!! My God lets at least stay on topic Steve!

Steve  Dosh's picture

State police probe shooting death at Turner egg farm

Mainers , 10:55 hst ? Tuesday
Guns, eh ? NYC just found a bunch of illegal and unregistered guns coming up from So. Car. and No. Car and put those ppl in custody ...
Yeah , they did ? 
hth, Steve , HI :D

MARK GRAVEL's picture

The VOG must be thick today

The VOG must be thick today in Hawaii.

 's picture

What does that have to do

What does that have to do with an accidental shooting in Turner, Maine?


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