Farm worker rescued from 10,000-bushel grain bin north of Montrose
By Matt Kane
MONTROSE, MN Training pays off.
That’s what the Montrose Fire Department found out Wednesday afternoon during the rescue of a 39-year-old man from a grain bin.
“This is the first time I have seen this in 25 years,” Montrose Fire Chief Mike Marketon said more than two hours after the call came in.
Montrose received a call just before 2 p.m. that a man, identified as Herasmo Olivas, had fallen in a grain bin and was buried up to his neck in frozen corn.
“I saw his head and hands, that was it,” Marketon said. “It was up to his chin.”
Marketon and three of his fellow Montrose rescuers entered the 10,000-bushel bin, where Olivas was trapped, from an opening in the roof. Olivas’ work partner, Jaime Manzanares, who was with Olivas when the accident occurred, was also inside the bin, which, at the time, was housing close to 4,000 bushels of corn. Manzanares assisted with the rescue and served as a translator between the victim and the rescuers.
The Buffalo Fire Department was called to the scene to assist the rescue with its Aerial 21 105-foot ladder truck. The Monticello Fire Department and a vacuum truck crew from the City of Monticello were also called.
The team of rescuers used five-gallon buckets to dig corn away from Olivas, and, when the Monticello vacuum truck arrived, they vacuumed corn out from around Olivas. Plywood was used to form a crib-like barrier around Olivas to prevent the corn from caving in around him.
At 3:42 p.m., rescuers Darin Orr and Matt Menard from Montrose, and Mark Lauer from Buffalo, positioned outside at the peak of the roof, pulled the Stokes basket Olivas was strapped to vertically through the round opening at the peak of the bin.
“It was, basically, a dead lift for about 25 feet,” said Orr.
The basket, with Olivas still in it, was then loaded onto the bucket at the end of the 105-foot ladder truck, and lowered to ground level, where an Allina ambulance was waiting to take Olivas to Buffalo Hospital. He was held for observation and released later Tuesday with no injuries.
Marketon said Olivas, who does not speak English, was coherent throughout the rescue, but was extremely cold. The air temperature outside the grain bin hovered in the low teens.
Orr said Olivas was about 12 feet from the bin’s roof when the rescuers first arrived at the scene, and descended to about 30 feet below the ceiling by the time he was rescued.
None of the Montrose firefighters had experienced such a rescue, but they were ready for it.
“We had training about three years ago on how to do a rescue like this, and it paid off,” Marketon said.
Buffalo Fire Chief Robin Barfknecht said his crew also had training for such a rescue, but, like Montrose, never had to use it for a grain bin rescue.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Barfknecht said. “Any- time you get a save like that, it’s a win.”
The grain bin Olivas was working in, on a vegetable farm located on 36th Street in Marysville Township just off Wright County Road 12, north of Montrose, is owned by Jerry Untiedt of Waverly.
Thursday, Untiedt explained what Olivas told him about what happened Tuesday in the grain bin.
“He was shoveling corn, and he said it was bridging. As he walked closer to the snag, it all broke loose, and he got sucked in,” Untiedt said. “It is like water or quicksand when it is sliding down to a center point. It’s like water going down a drain.
“It was a scary deal.”
The only thing that stopped Olivas from being pulled down further into the corn was shutting off the auger.
“(Olivas) hollered to Paul (Nelson) and Jaime (Manzanares) to shut things off. By then he was up to his shoulders,” Untiedt explained.
Paul Nelson was the third member of Olivas’ crew, and shut the auger down from the ground.
Untiedt rode in the ambulance with Olivas to Buffalo, and said Olivas was talking.
“He was in good spirits, but he was cold. It was like being packed in snow, I would guess,” said Untiedt.
Untiedt gave thanks to the rescuers, and he is also thankful he enforces a rule that his employees work in crews.
“We always have them work in twos,” Untiedt said. “It’s a good thing.
“When you work in a grain bin, you don’t work alone. Too many things can happen.”