I still remember exactly where I was when I learned my friend, Dave Buck, Milton, Ind., died in a grain bin entrapment accident. It was over 15 years ago, but it seems like yesterday. I was riding home from the Indiana Farm Bureau annual conference in Indianapolis in early December. It was a Friday night, and my wife, Carla, was driving. My cellphone rang, and it was a mutual acquaintance, telling me of Dave’s demise.
All those memories came flooding back when Jason Urwin, a territory manager for Corteva/Pioneer, called recently. Pioneer and other ag businesses in eastern Indiana, including Harvest Land Co-op, are helping build a grain bin safety and rescue training center for Henry County Emergency Management. The facility is being built in remembrance of Dave Buck, and Pioneer presented a check to support the project on the 15th anniversary of his death.
That’s one of the few positives that evolved from a tragedy which changed a farm family forever. The tragedy also impacted dozens of Dave’s friends and thousands more who heard about the incident. Hopefully, some made changes in how they approach grain bin safety.
Another memory seared in my mind is the bent ladder inside the grain bin, sticking straight out, just as it was as it let the rope tied to Dave go under the force of pulling grain. It was the next morning, and I was inside the bin with many other neighbors, shoveling out soybeans before it snowed. One section of the bin was removed during the rescue attempt.
Those left behind
More recently, I interviewed Ron Martin, a logger in Morgan County, Ind., in early September. Roughly one month later, he died in the same woods in a freak accident. Even though it was a stray limb that crushed him, and not a chain saw, it left a mark on me.
Every time I pass my chain saw in the shed — the same make as his — I think of Ron and cringe.
Recently I needed to clean up brush. It was a struggle to pick up the chain saw at first. But at the same time, I had no problem remembering my safety glasses and making sure I wore protective gear. Life must go on, even after tragedy.
Bill Field, Purdue University Extension farm safety specialist, notes it’s not only the victims, but also the people left behind, who pay the price for accidents. Sometimes scars are financial; other times they’re emotional.
Field also relates that nonfatal farm accidents can be life-changing. In a recent report on 2017 farm fatalities, he included a section on nonfatal farm accidents. They’re not well-documented, but based on historical data, he estimates that nearly 130 nonfatal farm accidents resulting in permanent disability occurred in 2017.
Something positive also came from Ron Martin’s tragic death. Chris and Susan Parker, Morgantown, donated a Polaris 4x4 utility vehicle to the Morgantown Fire Department. They’re converting it into a rescue vehicle to use when they can’t reach an accident site by truck.
Taking positive action to promote safety and prevent future suffering are great ways to honor those who have fallen. But there’s another way to honor them. Join me in thinking about Dave Buck every time you prepare to enter a grain bin and thinking about Ron Martin every time you see a chain saw. Make sure you’re as prepared as you can be to do your job safely.
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