Homeless Man May Have Been Sleeping When Accidentally Crushed Inside Garbage Truck

A homeless Illinois man who was found crushed inside of garbage truck on Thursday morning may have been sleeping in a dumpster before his death.

Investigators from the Sangamon County Sheriff's Office are looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of 58-year-old Lee Roy Stewart. They believe Stewart was alive and possibly asleep or disoriented inside of a dumpster when a garbage truck dumped him into its compactor mechanism.

Stewart's body was found on Thursday at 10:15 a.m. local time when the truck entered its company transfer station.

Surveillance cameras on the truck's route may have captured footage of Stewart climbing in a dumpster, police said, though they are still investigating. The truck driver isn't facing criminal charges. It's thought that Stewart's screams might have been muffled by the loud sound of the truck's machinery.

"[Stewart] died of crushing injuries consistent with the equipment used to transport garbage," according to Coroner Jim Allmon, the State Journal-Register reported. "His injuries show he was alive when the injuries were sustained. It sounds terrible, but we don't think anybody put him in there."

Investigators are awaiting the results of a toxicology blood test to determine whether Stewart was intoxicated at the time of his death. The test results won't return for four to six weeks.

homeless man crushed garbage truck Illinois
A homeless man who was found crushed inside of garbage truck may have been sleeping in a dumpster before his death. This photo illustration shows a dump truck on a city street. photovs/Getty

Other drivers told the aforementioned publication that they have seen other people sleeping inside of dumpsters jumping out as garbage trucks arrive.

The hydraulics in garbage trash compactors can deliver anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of force per square inch, making them capable of applying over 80 tons of combined pressure, according to the industry website Mobile Hydraulics.

When two men in Tallahassee, Florida were crushed inside of a garbage truck's compactor in December 2016, the medical examiner documented numerous crush fractures in their faces, skulls, jaws, neck and ribs.

One of the men, Anthony Todd, also had hemorrhaging in his eyes. He was actually believed to have died from asphyxiation caused by compression of the chest. The other, William Norris, died from multiple blunt traumatic injuries.

Todd and Norris were believed to have crawled inside of dumpsters in order to avoid rainy weather.

Numerous news reports have recounted people who have survived being crushed inside of garbage trucks.

VanAllenBelt, a Reddit user, said he survived being crushed by a garbage trash compactor in 2005. In a 2014 "Ask Me Anything" discussion, the man said that he had entered a dumpster to find a cell phone he had accidentally thrown away. The experience "was absolutely the worst pain I had ever felt in my life," he wrote.

"I began to black out," he wrote. "Just when I thought, 'I'm going to die. I'm going to die' the compactor moved back toward the back of the truck. At that moment my adrenaline kicked in and I knew I had to get out or I was surely going to die."

He said he suffered a concussion, several broken ribs, a crushed right leg and a broken collar bone. He couldn't pay the $23,000 in medical bills and avoided physical therapy for five years afterward because he didn't have health insurance.