When son Matt arrived at the bin, he climbed to the top and looked through the hatch. His dad's arms, from the elbow to the hands, reaching straight up were all he saw in the grain. Throwing his cell phone to the employee below, he yelled: "Call 9-1-1! Turn off the auger!” Then, 36-yearold Matt jumped in the bin of corn, grabbed his dad's hand and assured him that help was on the way. It was, but it would not come in time. His dad let go and slipped away, swallowed by the corn. The emergency crew told the family it was all over for David within eight seconds; it took more than an hour to dig him out of the grain. Meanwhile, the harness and ropes that could have saved David's life sat unused in the back of his pickup. After David's funeral, his wife of 41 years, Pam, wrote this poignant letter to fellow farmers in southeast Missouri. We're sharing it so everyone who hauls grain will change the way they do things. "I want to save any family I can from this hell,” Pam says.
Aug. 16, 2009
To the Farmers of Southeast Missouri,
Yesterday, I buried the love of my life and my best friend all because he didn't have time to make things safe before he entered a grain bin. The day started out as usual, him eating his favorite cereal, having me check the overnight markets, checking the weather report, and waiting on the hired hand and our son to come to work.
He and I discussed that the corn was crusted over. The crust had slipped down because we had already pulled two loads out of that bin. The last thing he told me was to call the elevator, see what they were paying, he would be home for lunch, and walked out the door. Little did I know that I would never talk to him again.
Thankfully, I did not lose a son that day also. His daddy's hand slipping out of his is the last memory of David my son will have. I know that you think because of this event, you will be more careful. But we don't always learn our lessons well. Twenty years before this grain bin accident, David helped dig out a friend and neighbor that lived less than a half-mile away.
Please take the time to use safety equipment; it does not do any good in the back of the pickup or in the toolshed.
Promise Now Not To Cut Corners
Farm Journal October 2009 Editor's Letter
Pam Dowdy saw the ambulance and rescue crews whiz by, sirens screaming. In a tiny community like Pyletown in southern Missouri, everyone knows everyone, so she was immediately concerned. But it was the call from her daughter that stopped her cold: The
local television station was reporting that a man was trapped in a grain bin on County Road 651. That meant it had to be someone at their bin site about a quarter-mile down the road.
Pam raced to the site and soon knew her life would never be the same. David, her husband of 41 years, was trapped in the bin, buried by the corn he had climbed in to check. Ironically, David had entered the bin to make sure it was safe. He and son Matt had hauled out two loads of corn a few weeks before, and the corn was crusted over. David broke through the crust and was quickly swallowed by the grain. He suffocated before rescue crews could reach him.
The harness and ropes that could have saved David's life sat nearby in the back of his pickup. A harrowing experience of helping dig a neighbor's body from a grain bin 20 years earlier had prompted him to buy the safety equipment. But pressed for time, he cut one last corner and didn't use the gear.
After David's funeral, Pam wrote the open letter to farmers that appears on page 14 with the hope that others will benefit from their heartache. Please read it, take it to heart and promise not to cut corners that put your safety at risk. Matt, the couple's 36-year-old son, faced that bin and unloaded the rest of the corn without his dad—and now he faces his first harvest farming solo.
Farm Jouranl Editor