- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

ROCKTON, Ill. (AP) - The odds of living were against Roger Bates when he fell into a grain bin on Jan. 31.

The 78-year-old Rockton resident sank neck-deep into 35,000 bushels of corn while trying to break up spoiled clumps of material that would have clogged the machines. He had carried a chain connected to the bin’s structure inside with him, thinking he could pull himself out if he started to sink.

But that plan backfired when the corn engulfed him and he couldn’t fully lift his arms.

“When a squad car pulled in, I immediately thought he was a goner. ‘Cause I knew he only had seconds to react,” Roger’s wife, Judy, said Feb. 10.

Their grandson, Michael Bates Jr., sprang into action when he saw his grandfather sink in the corn. Michael quickly shut off the auger and carefully entered the bin to push away corn that was suffocating Roger’s chest. He called 911, prompting more than a dozen fire department and rescue agencies to respond.

Five hours later, Roger was freed.

And this is his takeaway: “There is no good reason (for going into the bin).”

“That’s just a plain no-no. I could have done the same thing without the auger running, it’s just a matter (of) I was saving time.”

He was one of the lucky ones.

About 74 percent of all documented grain bin entrapments from 1964 to 2005 resulted in death, according to a Purdue University study released in 2012. In 2011 that figure dropped significantly - to 30 percent of all entrapments resulting in death.

Farmers and agriculture companies across the Rock River Valley have experienced this danger.

Two teens, 19-year-old Alejandro Pacas and 14-year-old Wyatt Whitebread, were killed in July 2010 after becoming entrapped in corn more than 30 feet deep inside a grain bin at Haasbach LLC, a Consolidated Grain and Barge company grain elevator in Mount Carroll.

Another worker, Will Piper, and Pacas jumped into the grain bin to try to save Whitebread, who was quickly becoming buried by the material. Pacas jumped into what became a sinkhole and ultimately suffocated alongside Whitebread.

Rescuers saved Piper, who had been engulfed to his neck in the material.

A jury awarded the families of the two decreased teens $16 million, $8 million each, on Feb. 6. The jury awarded Pacas $875,000.

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