Note: When farm tragedy strikes it can be close to home. Indiana Prairie Farmer editor Tom Bechman reports on a farm death this week that hit a family friend.
The calm of another sunny, warm late August morning was shattered in central Indiana this morning when a 911 call went out at 9:17 a.m. A man was missing, presumed drowned in 7,000 bushels of grain at his farm three miles southwest of Franklin, Ind. Unfortunately, assumptions proved correct. Richard Henderson, 80, perished inside the bin this morning.
His son and grandson were loading out grain, and had just returned for their second load. Neighbors saw Richard on the road at nearly 9 a.m. in his pickup. As they began loading and corn flowed out of the auger, suddenly they realized they didn’t know where dad was.
What happened to dad is sketchy, and may never be known. A pole sometimes used for pushing out clogs of grain was still on the grain bin roof, outside the grain bin. The body was found at the bottom of the bin, in the center of the pile of grain.
For regular readers of these features, let me say this one hit close to home. I only live a half-mile from the accident. I chat with the victim’s son often, and was his grandson’s advisor in a local soil conservation club. His granddaughter, a freshman in high school, shows 4-H swine with my kids.
Prayers go out to the family. It brought back unpleasant memories of four years ago, when Dave Buck, Milton, perished inside a bin of soybeans, trying to push out a frozen clot of grain in December. He had a rope tied off to a ladder and a walkie-talkie- nothing helped. The next morning when several of us gathered to scoop out beans in the bean before snow arrived, the ladder that the rope was attached to stood straight out horizontally. It was an eerie feeling then, and is again today. Buck was an Indiana Prairie Farmer Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer.
Many neighbors gathered this morning, several crawled out of the bin dusty and sweating after the rescue attempt. It was a scene similar to what happened at the Buck farm four years ago, and at another farm in Shelby County the year before that- the list goes on.
Right now, many of you are emptying bins, preparing for the new crop and filling contracts to specialty suppliers. Some of those bins have crusts of moldy grain inside. That’s when trouble begins.
Bill Field, Purdue University safety specialist, has emphasized that flowing grain is deadly. While it may seem impossible to a farmer with a clogged auger, there is only one solution - stay out of the bin if the auger is turned on. Field emphasizes there is virtually no way to escape once the grain sucks a person in. There are very few survivors, and those that survive are often saved by some miraculous circumstance.
So as you head out to load grain, remember there are things more important than whether it rained last night or not. Life and death hang in the balance in farming every day. The lowest number of deaths ever recor4ded in Indiana, 8, happened last year. Safety is improving, but there are still risks.
Unfortunately, another family and neighborhood relearned that lesson today.