Five Franklin teenagers reminded all of us this past week that no one is invincible. No matter how big your tractor is or how many precautions you normally take, if you cut corners that one time, it may be a recipe for disaster.
Unfortunately, two of the five teens died, one is in critical condition, and the other two were rescued and are physically unharmed. The event played out on the Blue River near the small town of Edinburgh. It's the same Blue River some of you may remember form the favorite children's book 'The Bears of Blue River' read in the past to their class by many elementary school teachers.
As the river approaches Edinburgh, there is a man-made dam. The water flows over the dam, especially when the river is high. It's high now due to continued large rain events in central and north-central Indiana. Once the water falls over the dam, it's about a 10-foot drop. The water creates a boiling action once it drops to the lower level, forming a spot known as 'the drowning machine.'
The five teenagers were swimming in the swollen river on Friday, June 5 when one of the five got too close to the flow feeding the dam. She went over the dam. In an effort to save her, the four boys jumped from the dam into the lower part of the river. Two of them were able to swim to safety once they realized the current was too strong to fight. The girl who went over first and one of her would-be rescuers were pulled from the river in grave condition. The boy died of complications on Monday, June 9. The other boy drowned, and his body was finally recovered two days later. At this time the girl still remains alive, but in critical condition.
Two lives lost, the third remains a question mark, and two more emotionally scarred for a lifetime. Exactly why they were there and how it happened may not be as important as the fact that it did happen. Accidents happen. You can increase or decrease the risk by your actions, but they still happen.
Jack Maloney, one of the newly named Master Farmers, certainly didn't intend to lose his arm in an auger accident a few years ago. He thought they followed safety procedures, but one mistake cost him his arm. He's become a spokesperson for safety and for living with a disability.
If we could turn back the clock, we would give Jack back his arm and we would restore life to the lost teenagers. But we can't. We can, however, move safety up a notch in our priority list as we go about farming and living this summer.
Maybe you'll think twice before you cross the creek in the pasture with a tractor without ROPS, even though you've done it a hundred times before. Maybe you'll make sure the electricity is cut off if you have to get in a grain bin so that no one can turn it on, not knowing you're in the bin.
If these stories of tragedy save one person from a tragic end or disabling injury, then it was worth the time it took you to read this blog. Be careful out there!