PESOTUM — A pilot who inadvertently sprayed fungicide on almost 80 teens as they were detasseling corn in southern Champaign County has been fined $750 for violating the Illinois Pesticide Act. That comes to about $9.50 per victim.
Jeff Squibb, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, announced this weekend that administrative-law Judge Jack Price ruled that Josh Pavia, who at the time was an employee of Atlantic Ag Aviation of Roper, N.C., should be fined $750 for applying a pesticide in a faulty, careless or negligent manner when he sprayed field workers detasseling corn July 25.
Squibb had no information on Pavia’s age or address.
Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana reported seeing 79 patients who were exposed to what was thought to be fungicide as they were detasseling corn in southern Champaign County just before 9 a.m. July 25. They were hit by a drifting substance dropped from a crop-dusting plane over an adjacent field southeast of Pesotum.
At least three area fire departments responded to a field about a half-mile south of the intersection of county roads 200 N and 1100 E. Allen Rinehart, Carle’s emergency department director, said that each of the teens was thoroughly decontaminated on site.
Following an investigation by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, an administrative hearing on Pavia’s actions was held Oct. 16. According to documents from the hearing, Pavia did not attend.
Rick Davis, plant pesticide specialist for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, testified that the only plausible explanation for the workers’ contamination was a nozzle leaking from the plane.
Price ruled that Pavia must pay the $750 fine and that neither he nor Atlantic Ag Aviation may be issued any licenses or permits from the Illinois Department of Agriculture until it is paid.
“There was absolutely no reason (Pavia) needed to fly over the workers at all,” the judge wrote in his decision.