ROCKTON, Ill. - A northern Illinois farm worker who fell into a grain bin and ended up buried up to his chin has been rescued thanks in large part to efforts by the man's grandson to clear corn away from his chest.
Roger Bates, 73, became trapped Friday while working with his grandson to unload material from the bin at a farm in the village of Rockton, near the city of Rockford and a few miles south of the Wisconsin state line.
Such accidents have plagued the farming industry despite calls for safety measures such as having workers wear harnesses. Entrapments typically happen to workers sent in to clear away clumps while grain is being emptied. Mistakes are often fatal as grain gives way and swallows workers like quicksand.
"A lot of times, unfortunately, we come to a lot of rescue scenarios like this and we end up doing recoveries where it ends a lot different than what it ends today," said Matthew Knott, the Rockford Fire Department division chief.
A worker can become completely submerged in less than a minute, according to officials with the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates accidents. At least 26 people were killed in grain bin accidents in 2010, the worst year on record.
Rescuers said Bates' survival was thanks to his grandson, Michael, who called 911 and acted quickly to clear grain from around him.
"We owe a lot of credit to that grandson for making that notification and getting that call out early," Knott said.
It took rescuers wearing harnesses five hours of painstaking work digging with their hands, shovels and buckets to free Bates safely.
They used metal sheets to keep grain from falling back in on the man as they worked.
He was taken to Rockford Memorial Hospital for evaluation.
Family members had gathered outside the grain bin during the rescue effort and were grateful to learn Bates was OK.
"You didn't want him to die and now that we've got him back, we'll appreciate it," said his nephew, Wayne.