but could not. She died, along with daughters Shayla, 11, and Christina, 9, and farmhand Amous Stoltzfus, 24.
The Showalters' two surviving daughters were being cared for by family members.
On Tuesday, a cousin of Scott Showalter's questioned whether runoff from a pile of brewer's grain had accelerated the formation of the gas. Scott Showalter had been using the grain to feed his cattle.
"It rained, and some of it ran down into this holding pit, it fermented and made a toxic gas," said Bruce Good, who saw Showalter about once a week.
Whether the victims suffocated from the fumes, drowned or died of another cause might never be known. No autopsies were planned, in part because investigators were satisfied that the deaths were accidental, the sheriff's office said.
The deaths struck hard in this picturesque farming region dotted with red barns, gleaming silos and church steeples that peak above rolling fields.
The Showalter clan is well known in the community where neighbors do each other's laundry. On Tuesday, friends tended to the family's animals.
"The cows have to be milked twice a day, even in an ordeal like this," said Frank Showalter, Scott's great uncle, standing a few feet from where his relatives died.
The Showalters milked 103 cows on their farm west of Harrisonburg in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. They belonged to a conservative Mennonite church whose members shun many of the trappings of modern society but drive cars, use telephones and, according to police, take modern farm-safety precautions.
Fellow church members were in shock Tuesday, said the Rev. Nathan Horst, a Mennonite bishop.
"We've never had a tragedy of this magnitude," he said.
Doug Michael, a childhood friend of Scott's, described him as a dedicated farmer and a family man.
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