A teenager died yesterday afternoon after he fell into a mulch-spreading truck in North Potomac, Montgomery County police said.
The 17-year-old male was landscaping in the 12400 block of Bacall Lane when he climbed on top of the mulch spreader and lost his balance, said Sandy Palmer, executive assistant at TopMulch, the Brookeville company where the teenager worked.
He had been with the company for "a couple of weeks," Palmer said.
The machine, called a "bark blower," churns mulch with a large spinning device called an auger and then disperses it through a hose, Palmer said. The machine had jammed and the teenager had gotten on top of the truck to see why the mechanism wasn't working, Palmer said.
Police said the victim's co-worker had asked the teenager to turn off the machine. When the sound of the machine did not stop, the co-worker went to investigate.
"He came to the door, just screaming," said a man who described himself as the owner of the house where the workers were landscaping, but who declined to provide his name. "I called 911."
The house owner, who speaks Spanish and who initially interpreted for the distraught worker when police arrived, said the deceased worker came from Guatemala. Authorities said he lived in Wheaton.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services received the 911 dispatch at 2:55 p.m., said police spokesman Joyce Utter. The young man was "almost certainly" dead when rescue crews arrived minutes later, she said.
Rescue workers took the mulch spreader to a fire station to remove the victim's body, Utter said.
She said authorities did not release the victim's name because his family had not been notified last night.
TopMulch has a fleet of 10 trucks of varying sizes that are used to spread mulch, Palmer said. She referred further questions about the death to the company's owner, Paul Saiz. She said Saiz would not be available until today.
Palmer said the company has safety classes for machinery operators.
"We do training before anybody is allowed to even go within feet of these trucks," she said.
"It was a very tragic, tragic accident and nobody deserves to have that happen to them," Palmer said.
Staff writer Brigid Schulte and researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.