by Ken Root
Associate Farm Broadcaster, Ben Nuelle, was presented the Doan Award by the National Association of Farm Broadcasting at Agriculture Day ceremonies in Washington, D.C. Monday.
Nuelle was cited for his series; “Buried to the Neck” about a Missouri farmer who was covered with corn and trapped in a grain bin. He lived through an ordeal but most do not. Ben’s original interview and expanded coverage won the highest honor of the Farm Broadcasting association.
The Doan award was recently renamed for veteran farm broadcaster, Stewart Doan who died in 2012. The award has been given since the 1960’s as the Oscar in Agriculture. It was conceived by Dekalb Seed Company and passed through several underwriters through the years.
Agri-Pulse Communications is the current underwriter. It remains the most prestigious award for journalism in farm broadcasting. Nuelle won in his first year of eligibility.
Nuelle’s story is below.
by Ben Nuelle
Falling through loose corn is every farmer’s worst nightmare. February 21st through the 27th was Grain Bin Safety Week. According to research at Purdue University, in the past 50 years more than 900 cases of grain entrapments have been reported with a 62% fatality rate. Earlier this month a Creston man died after being buried under grain for three hours.
A farmer from Missouri was a lot luckier than him. Dennis Schneider grows corn and soybeans in Corder, Missouri located in the central part of the state. The morning of December 4th was like any other day. It was still warm Schneider and his son Dustin were filling a truck with corn.
“We had some corn that got a little out of condition because I had over-filled the bin and hadn’t cored that bin. I was concerned about a little bit of mold at the top and kind of wanted to monitor that when we were filling a truck and selling that corn,” Schneider says.
Schneider knew hopping in a running grain bin was not really a good idea and had a plan in place if something bad happened.
“Went for a while and I did get in trouble and got down in the bottom of the cone and got caught and reached for my cellphone for the plan I had in place and as I got ready to speed-dial him I had a marketing text come through and I had to clear that text,” Schneider says.
This was a ten-inch auger taking out about 60 pounds a second causing Schneider to become buried up to his neck almost instantly. Even though his son had turned the auger off he was now fighting for his life.
“When the auger stopped my brain told my body the only task it had to do was try to breathe. Every time I took a breath I had to push quite a bit of pounds of corn up with every breath. That is what I was focusing on so I didn’t have to focus on other things or have my life flash before my face,” Schneider says.
His son Dustin quickly climbed into the bin placing a bucket over Schneiders’ head to help him breathe.
“Anybody that came into the bin… I was so deep in the corn at the bottom of the cone that they covered me up and when my son first came into the bin he did cover me up and had to dig me out so I was more stable that way,” Schneider says.
First responders soon arrived and cut holes around the bin to relieve pressure on Schneider finally freeing him.
Dan Neenan is director of the National Education Center for Agriculture Safety. He says there are a few things you should keep in mind when working in or around grain bins.
“A grain bin is considered a confined space. No one under 18 should be allowed in that confined space. As we enter we need to lock out and tag out the power source to the auger. If you go into the bin with auger running, or power gets applied, it can pull you down in to your waste in 15 seconds and full submerge you in 30.”
Schneider believes God kept him around for a reason.
“I had some discussions with the good Lord on why he left me around for this because a lot of people do not survive something like this and it is my goal to help everyone I can and talk safety and for them to get another perspective. Like I said a lot of people in my positon did not live through it,” Schneider says.
The story of Dennis Schneider should be a life lesson for all of us in understanding how dangerous hopping in a running grain bin actually is.