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Baker survives being fully submerged in grain

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 10/03/2013 4:34 PM

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RICEVILLE, Iowa — Safety comes first for New Providence farmer Arick Baker.

"It doesn't matter if it takes the entire day to be safe," the 23-year-old Baker said. "The second you're not thinking about safety is the second it will come back to bite you."

He learned that lesson June 26. He and his father were cleaning out a 50,000 bushel bin that had a lot of moldy corn. His job was to go up on top of the corn and break the clumps with a PVC pipe.

"What we didn't know was that there was a shelf of rotten corn about 10 inches from the bottom and under that was an air pocket," Baker said.

His father was up in the window and left to shut off the auger because the semi was full. Ten seconds later, Baker broke the shelf.

Within seconds, he went from ankle-deep to knee-deep corn. He grabbed the rope that was on him and was waist deep.

"I went from ankle deep to having corn over my head in 10 seconds," Baker said as he shared his experiences at the Howard County 4-H Farm Safety Day.

He was buried in corn at 10:32 a.m. and the rescue crew arrived at 12:47 p.m. They found his hand at 12:52, uncovered his face at 1:17 p.m. and pulled him out at 3:02 p.m. Thirteen rescue crews and 130 workers were at the scene.

"The only reason I was able to breath was because of this helmet," Baker said as he held up the battery-powered AirShield Pro. "It doesn't make oxygen, but it filters oxygen. This is the reason I'm alive. Without this, I would have been found with three pounds of corn in my mouth and nose."

He and his father bought the helmet at a farm show in Cedar Falls in February. Baker now sells the helmets.

The other trucker returned to the site and when he didn't see Baker, he climbed to the top of the bin and saw the rope going straight down into the bin.

He pulled on the rope and then ran to his semi and honked his horn twice.

"He was signaling a highway patrolman who was going by on the road, and that's how the rescue crews were notified," Baker said.

It was 137 degrees in the bin and he was drifting in and out of consciousness. When the Iowa Falls Fire Department arrived, they turned on the bin fan. Baker thinks the sound woke him.

He heard rescuers questioning if he could possibly be alive and he screamed as loud as he could. They heard him and started digging directly above him. When a firefighter touched his hand, they locked fingers. The firefighters had recently trained in grain bin rescues. They inserted a steel tube around Baker and scooped corn until they could pull him out.

He was taken by air ambulance to Covenant Medical Center in Waterloo. His right foot was crushed on top of the sweep box under an estimated 900 pounds of pressure and his chest was under 400 pounds of pressure. His worst injuries were leg sores caused by acid burns from moldy corn. Those have since healed.

The Riceville Fire Department demonstrated how they use a steel tube similar to the one used to rescue Baker. A Tug-of-War-with-Grain showed how many pounds of force it would take to pull someone out of a bin. It would take 1,500 pounds of sustained force to pull out a fully submerge person like Baker.

Baker and his father purchased harnesses to use in the bin.

Baker got really scared were when he saw that he was sinking into corn and when the low battery started beeping in his helmet.

He controlled his panic by focusing on breathing and trying to take his glove off.

"After the first two minutes, I knew that if I was going to get out of there it was by breathing," Baker said. "I had to wait for someone to come and get me out."

A man who trains rescuers to use the steel tubes in grain bin rescues told a local newspaper that in his 47 years in the business, Baker is the only person he is aware of who survived being fully submerged in grain.

On Sept. 6, 110 FFA members from four area high schools took part in a morning session and 65 to 70 adults attended in the afternoon on the Christensen farm. They learned about grain handling, roadway and farm equipment safety and first aid and CPR. Education partners were Monsanto, Ziegler CAT, Pioneer, Farm Credit Services of America, Riceville Ambulance and the Riceville Fire Department.

On Sept. 7, more than 100 children and their parents participated in Rural Roadway, Fire, Electricity, Tractor, PTO, ATV, Livestock, Chemical, Lawnmower, Wheel of Misfortune, First Aid, Grain, Skid Steers and a helicopter fly-in with the Covenant Air Care II from Iowa City and the Waterloo Fire and Rescue Smoke House.

Planning committee members were Steve and Rosalie Christensen, Christensen Agri-Seeds; Linda Koenigs, Pinicon Farm Partnership; Michael Schaub, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Howard County; and Lynette Houser, ISU Extension and Outreach Youth Coordinator.

More than 110 volunteers assisted with the event, which had many local sponsors.