Five Years Later: Teens' deaths prompt farm safety training

Families work to prevent deadly farm accidents

Published 07/28 2015 11:18PM

Updated 07/28 2015 11:18PM

 Five years ago Tuesday, Alex Pacas and Wyatt Whitebread were killed after getting trapped in a grain bin elevator filled with corn.
 
The anniversary draws some sad memories for family members, but one relative says they're working to prevent it from happening again.
 
"There was a lot of hope still. I think they have hope, but in a different way, but there is definitely still a lot of grieving going on," said Catherine Rylatt, Alex Pacas' aunt. 
 
Since Alex's death she's co-founded the Grain Handling Safety Coalition, an organization that examines day-to-day procedures on family farms and provides them with safety information to help avoid deadly accidents.
 
The group teamed up Tuesday with the Illinois Farm Bureau to offer grain bin safety training.
 
"Farmer's work alone. Farmer's work in remote locations. We're trying to get them to say, don't work alone, take somebody with you," said Dave Newcomb, Ag Rescue Program Manager at Illinois Fire Service Institute.  
 
Newcomb says the number one rule?
 
"'...Lock out, tag out.' Shut the equipment off, and put padlocks on it, so it cannot be restarted," said Newcomb.
 
One of Tuesday's trainees knew Wyatt Whitebread, and says being prepared and knowing what to do can save lives.
 
 "There's some dangers in the grain bin. Who knows what could happen," said Ernie Gossmann, friend of Wyatt Whitebread.
 
 People from throughout the community came together for a memorial for the Alex and Wyatt.
 
Rylatt says even after five years, Tuesday was difficult.
 
"Alex could very well be... could have graduated from college by now, and we would've been celebrating that," said Rylatt.
 
But she says she finds joy in the change she's working to create. 
 
 "When I go to training sessions and I see people it makes me feel that we're doing something and something good," said Rylatt.
 
For more information about the Grain Handling Safety Coalition and the training they offer, go to grainsafety.org.
 

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