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Report says Illinois diver drowned while working in Iowa farm tank

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STOCKTON, Iowa — An autopsy shows an Illinois scuba diver who died inside a million-gallon farm tank in eastern Iowa accidentally drowned.

An autopsy report for Robert Baenziger Jr., 54, of East Moline, Illinois, was released Wednesday, The Gazette of Cedar Rapids reported. The report showed he died June 8 in an anaerobic digester, a large tank in which cow manure and food waste are combined with water and broken down by microorganisms to create methane. Officials had initially described the tank as a manure tank.

Baenziger was a self-employed contractor exempt from federal workplace oversight who had been hired by Sievers Family Farm in Stockton to dive into the murky liquid in the tank to repair an agitator cable.

"As his fiancé was trying to pull him up, there were complications, and he didn't surface," Scott County Sheriff's Capt. Joe Caffery said last month. "For whatever reason, he relayed to her through radio communications that he was taking his helmet off. So when she pulled the rope up, the helmet came up."

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A team of commercial divers from Chicago later recovered Baenziger's body from inside the tank and said he did not have on proper protective clothing or safety gear for a dive into contaminated water.


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