‘Dusty, very cramped:’ Difficult rescue operation to save 3 workers trapped in Cargill grain silo

Data pix.

SHEBOYGAN -- Poking through the Sheboygan sky, massive grain silos can be seen for miles. Closer to the ground Tuesday, Aug. 6 all eyes were on emergency crews gathering in the parking lot. Just before 10:30 a.m., Cargill workers called for help when three employees became trapped inside a grain silo.

"By all means, it's all hands on deck," said Scott Kroeplien, rescue captain for the Town of Sheboygan Falls Fire Department. "A difficult operation."

Kroeplien leads Sheboygan County's Technical Rescue Team. Made up of volunteers from multiple nearby fire departments, the team trains monthly for difficult rescues just like this one.

Scott Kroeplien

"It's dusty, very cramped," said Kroeplien. "As you can imagine, there is not a lot of air flow."

Two workers were pulled from the silo within the first hour.

"They were treated on scene and released," said Battalion Chief Chase Longmiller, Sheboygan Fire Department.

The third was buried up to his neck. He was extricated and transported to the hospital for minor injuries using the "Great Wall of Rescue."

"It's basically a bunch of aluminum slates that form together to make an octagon," said Kroeplien. "We drive those down in the grain and all around the patient."

Any movement, and the victim could be buried alive. The wall also keeps the victim from being crushed. The work done Tuesday was so dangerous, Cargill officials made sure rescue crews were on standby.

"They typically call us and give us a heads up when they are going to do confined space work, and that allows us to make sure we are prepared in case something might happen," said Longmiller.

A Cargill spokesperson released the following statement on the incident:

"Cargill’s first priority is sending our employees home safely every day. Thanks to quick action by our team in Sheboygan and first responders, the employees made it safely out of the silo and were home to their families last night.  We have conducted safety and rescue training sessions at the silos with the Sheboygan Fire department and we are happy that training allowed us to have a positive outcome yesterday."

It took 35 responders to rescue the three workers -- a huge operation. Crews remained at the scene for four hours. The specialized team that made the rescue trained in an adjacent silo at Cargill in fall 2018. This marked their third silo rescue in the last five years.

Sheboygan silo rescue

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