MENNO — With first responders forced to use a backup plan, a Hutchinson County farmer was rescued from a grain bin this week as more than a dozen people worked to free him.
The incident occurred Monday afternoon on a farm four miles north of Olivet, according to Menno Fire Chief Jai Walter.
Walter declined to name the man trapped in the grain bin. The Menno Fire Department, Menno Ambulance and Hutchinson County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene.
Walter was unsure who called for help, but he said the party reporting the grain bin incident placed a private call to a Menno firefighter rather than directly dial 911.
“It takes more time when it’s done that way because we have to get it on the radio dispatch, and they put out the call, which takes another four or five minutes to get done,” the fire chief said. “And you don’t always have the right information (taken from the caller) the first time. 911 is still the recommended way of making the emergency call.”
Area farmers had learned of the grain bin incident, and Walter welcomed their offer of additional equipment. The fire department made use of a grain vacuum and a telehandler, similar to a skid loader with an extended arm.
Walter made sure the Menno firefighters, trucks and equipment were on their way before he took off. The department paged out at 4:13 p.m. and arrived on scene at 4:25 p.m. — a total of 12 minutes that included the nine-mile drive from Menno to the accident scene.
The first responders assessed the situation when they arrived on scene, Walter said.
“We had just the one man who was in the bin. He was waist deep in the corn,” the fire chief said. “It was a serious situation, but not as serious as it could have been if (the corn) had been up to his chest or higher.”
Using the ladder on the side of the bin, three firefighters went inside with rope and a harness to start the rescue effort, Walter said. At first, the firefighters used rescue tubes and a small auger to pull away the corn. However, circumstances made the rescue more difficult and required a different approach.
“We had a situation where (the farmer) was too close to the wall of the bin and we couldn’t get the tube all around him,” the fire chief said. “We ended up having to cut a hole in the side of the bin and let the grain out, so it took longer but we ended up getting him out through the hole.”
From what they could determine, the firefighters believed the man may have been trapped in the bin for about a half-hour before assistance arrived on scene, Walter said. With the corn placing intense pressure on the man’s legs for an extended period of time, rescuers were unsure if he would be able to climb up the ladders on the inside and outside of the bin.
However, the firefighters were able to extricate the man through the hole on the side of the bin. Usually, three or four rescuers were working with him at any given time.
“It’s not something we do every day,” the fire chief said. “We ended up with 16 people out there, so we had enough manpower. It’s nice to have that type of help, because if it takes a while, you can give the other guys a break.”
Once freed from the bin, the farmer was transported to the Scotland hospital, Walter said, adding he was unsure of the man’s condition.
The Menno firefighters gave a presentation Tuesday on grain bin safety for the Menno FFA chapter’s farm safety day. The event included livestock, power take-off (PTO), tool and machinery safety.
“We had planned this (presentation) a month ago and decided on talking about grain bin safety,” the fire chief said. “We couldn’t realize we would have an experience with it the day before our talk.”
This week’s incident isn’t unique, as a grain bin rescue was needed recently at Wausa, Nebraska. Walter anticipates the possibility of more accidents in the future, as farmers get their bins cleaned out and ready for the fall harvest.
“The big thing, when you’re working in a grain bin, is always have somebody else around,” he said. “Then, that person can help you out (of the bin) or at least know where you’re at and can quickly get help.”
Walter urged caution when dealing with any hazardous situations in agriculture. A split second of inattention or a wrong move can prove fatal, he added.
“Farming can be dangerous,” he said. “Always be aware of your surroundings.”
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