A Happy Ending, thanks to First Responders

by David Morgan, Lawrence County Executive
Recently I wrote about our Volunteer Fire Departments and the incredible work they do in all types of emergencies across Lawrence County.
This was proven on November 29, when the Grain Bin Rescue Team associated with Ethridge Volunteer Fire Department worked with other First Responders to save a man who was 90% engulfed in corn in a Henryville grain bin.
The 70-year-old walked away from a situation that most do not. The happy ending was unusual enough to earn a spot on at least one Nashville newscast and People magazine’s website.
“Usually, 90% engulfed means a 90% chance of fatality,” said Chad Powell, a 23-year member of Ethridge VFD who oversees the Grain Bin Rescue Team operation and built the trailer that houses their specialized equipment.
Powell was an hour away when the entrapment was called in at 2:12 p.m., but the entire team has the same training under their belts, as does the Grain Bin Rescue Team associated with Southeast Volunteer Fire Department.
Farmers sometimes enter grain bins to break up the crust that can form on top of the grain. This creates a hard surface that can support a person’s weight but can also collapse unexpectedly and act like quicksand. The weight and behavior of the grain makes it nearly impossible to escape without help and makes help dangerous to give. Many in this situation die of suffocation.
Powell said he and others first took grain bin rescue training in the fall of 2017, and more advanced classes last year. “They did it because of what they went through before. They have a passion and a drive to make a difference.”
The reference is to recent grain bin accidents that deeply affected the community and first responders involved. Those tragedies prompted local farmers to fund grain bin rescue training, and with the VFDs purchase equipment that makes rescues possible.
The equipment includes safety restraint devices for the rescue team and the person who is entrapped, a “turtle tube” and “great wall” that stabilizes the person and allows the grain to be removed from around them. In this case, a Lawrenceburg Utility Systems vacuum truck was used to remove corn from around the man and the bin, allowing him to walk out of the bin’s ground-level door.
Others on the scene included the Henryville VFD, Lawrenceburg Fire Department, Lawrence County Fire & Rescue, Ethridge Police Department, Lawrence County Emergency Management Agency, E911, Lawrence County Emergency Medical Service, Sheriff’s Department, Constables, and Air Evac.
The man was stabilized in less than an hour, and the whole operation took just over two hours. Ethridge VFD Chief Nathan Keeton said the successful operation was due to “great teamwork and great training.”
I am so thankful for Lawrence County’s highly trained first responders who are ready to help us in the worst of times. Some Volunteer Fire Department members also earn a living as first responders, but many, including members of the Grain Bin Rescue teams, train to simply be better volunteers.
Because we have the Jason Dickey Fire Training Center, volunteers and professionals can take most of their required training in Lawrence County. I appreciate the County Commission’s donation of $250,000 that helped complete the center, and any support you can give our Volunteer Fire Departments. Please consider joining one of these groups and giving much-needed funds to cover the high cost of equipment and vehicles.
Skip to content