"It appears he was trying to unclog a pump that pumps manure into a manure spreader, and he slipped and fell into the pit," Diamantoni said.
Straw or other debris can clog the pump or pipe.
The 10-foot-deep manure pit is under a concrete barn floor, which has narrow openings that allow animal manure to fall into the pit, Diamantoni said.
There is a 4-foot square hole in the floor that serves as an entrance to the pit.
Methane levels were high in the area, the coroner said. They likely caused Stoltzfus to become disoriented or unstable, causing him to fall into the pit and not be able to get out.
"Methane fumes are highly toxic and flammable and very dangerous," he said. "Exposure to methane fumes can cause loss of consciousness, asphyxia, death, and present a significant hazard for explosions."
"The danger associated with methane fumes is widely underestimated."
Stoltzfus was last seen alive at 9:30 a.m. He was supposed to return to the house for lunch at 11, Diamantoni said. When he didn't, his mother went looking for him around the farm.
She couldn't find him, so she went to a neighbor's house and asked for help, the coroner said. The neighbor joined the search and, at some point, went to the barn to look there.
The neighbor noticed the manure pump or pipe had been removed from the pit, Diamantoni said.
"He realized what may have occurred and looked in the pit, but couldn't find him," the coroner said.
The neighbor called 911, and emergency responders were dispatched around 1 p.m.
Firefighters found Stoltzfus in the pit, Diamantoni said. His face was partially above the surface of the manure.
He was hard to see because he was underneath the concrete floor, the coroner said.
Deputy Coroner Eric Bieber pronounced Stoltzfus dead at the scene.
He died accidentally from asphyxia, the coroner said. No autopsy was conducted.
Stoltzfus is survived by his wife and seven children, according to an obituary in Thursday's Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era.
Written by Intelligencer Journal