Sunday, February 06, 2000

NKU student dies in sand bin at plant

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WALTON — Investigators are still trying to explain how a 19-year-old Walton man died in a sand hopper at Atlas Concrete on Friday.

        Matthew Brian Baker, a student at Northern Kentucky University and a part-time employee at the plant, was covered by thousands of pounds of wet sand after he apparently fell into the 7-foot-deep bin.

        Brooks Becraft, the manager at the plant, said Mr. Baker was a hard worker who distinguished himself. Dumping sand in the bin was part of Mr. Baker's daily responsibilities, Mr. Becraft said.

        “That sand is moist and has a tendency to pull you down, like quicksand,” Mr. Becraft said. “If the sand gets on top of you, it's almost impossible to get out of.

        “This is something we're just flabbergasted about. I can't figure out how he got in that hopper.”

        Officials from the Boone County Police and the Kentucky Office of Occupational Safety and Health are investigating.

        Emergency personnel frantically tried to dig Mr. Baker out of the bin Friday. But when they finally reached him, some 45 minutes later, it was too late.

        Mary Belew, Mr. Baker's grandmother, said her grandson worked at the plant for pocket money. He loved hunting and fishing, and was an assis tant wrestling coach at Simon Kenton High School, from which he graduated in 1999.

        Mr. Baker was considering a career in broadcasting, she said.

        “He was a big cut-up,” Ms. Belew said. “He thought he was invincible and could do anything if he put his mind to it. He was funny as a crutch and kept us all in stitches.”

        Mr. Baker's 22-year-old sister, Sarah, said her brother was thinking about a transfer to Eastern Kentucky University. He wanted to be on a campus and just concentrate on his studies, she said.

        “He was a rock and would do anything for anybody,” Ms. Baker said. “He was the most hilarious person you'd ever meet. I'll miss that.”

        In addition to Ms. Baker and Ms. Belew, he is survived by: his mother and father, Rhonda and Keith Sims of Walton; two brothers, Jacob Sims and Anthony Riley, both of Walton; and another sister, Katelyn Sims.

        Visitation is from 5-8 p.m. Monday at Chambers and Grubbs Funeral Home in Independence. Service is at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home. Burial will be at Independence Cemetery.

        Memorials may be made to Piner Baptist Church, 15004 Madison Pike, Morning View, KY 41051 or the Simon Kenton Wrestling Team, c/o Simon Kenton High School, 11132 Madison Pike, Independence, KY 41051.


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