A 64-year-old oil delivery driver died when he was caught in power machinery beneath his truck in the parking lot next to a Lower Milford Township auto shop, authorities said.
The Lehigh County coroner’s office identified him as James Diefenderfer, of Lower Milford Township, ruling his death an accident.
Around 12:40 p.m. Wednesday, he became entangled in the truck’s power takeoff shaft in the lot on the 6300 block of Hoffman Lane, according to the coroner’s office. State police in Fogelsville responded to the scene around 1 p.m. to a report of a man pinned under a truck, Trooper Nathan Branosky said. Around 1:40 p.m., a deputy coroner pronounced him dead, determining in an autopsy Thursday that he died of blunt force trauma.
The incident itself happened very quickly, according to Kevin Ward, the owner of D&D Quality Auto Service, which is next to the parking lot.
Ward said Diefenderfer was delivering heating oil to the shop. Diefenderfer parked his truck in the lot, which is shared by multiple businesses, then noticed a problem with his oil pump and crawled under to try to repair it, Ward said.
The truck was still running as he attempted this, Ward said. Diefenderfer got caught in the machinery somehow, and a minute later he was motionless on the pavement.
Diefenderfer was co-owner of All Seasons Fuel, an oil company based in Quakertown, Ward said. A message on the answering machine at the business says it is closed “due to a death in the immediate family." Though the company will attempt to deliver orders over the next couple days, the message gave no indication of when it will reopen.
The power takeoff shaft ― whose spinning transfers engine power to a truck accessory, such as a pump ― is a common hazard in farming and trucking that often causes injury when clothing gets caught in it, according to the National Agriculture Safety Database. In the last decade, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has documented seven deaths involving PTO machinery.
OSHA’s Allentown office is investigating Wednesday’s incident, the public affairs department confirmed. The agency has six months to investigate and release its findings.
In addition to the coroner’s office, the accident is also being investigated by the state police Criminal Investigations Unit in Fogelsville.
It was only the second time D&D worked with this particular oil delivery service, Ward said. His shop has only been open four months.
In a few days, Ward said he intends to reach out to the oil company and gauge interest in organizing a benefit for the victim’s family.
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