Illinois farmer
An Illinois man died while attempting to knock down corn that had stuck to the side of a grain bin Monday. (United Soybean Board courtesy photo)

MORRISONVILLE, Ill. (UPI) — The autopsy of an Illinois man who died in a grain bin accident this week during his first day on the job found he suffocated after being buried in corn.

Farmworker David Lowis, 61, had been helping empty the bin on a farm in Morrisonville on Monday. Corn had stuck to the sidewalls, so Lowis entered from the top to manually free the grain, but he became trapped.

“He was told to stay at the door,” Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp said. “He must have gotten out of reach of the door and got knocked down. He was sucked into the corn.”

No one saw Lowis fall. When the farmer — Lowis’ employer — returned to the bin, he saw Lowis’ hand sticking up out of the grain and called for help. A sheriff’s deputy and neighbor arrived within five minutes, Kettelkamp said.

“The deputy saw the glove and he and the neighbor tried to pull him out, but they couldn’t,” Kettelcamp said.

The Morrisonville Fire Department later cut a hole in the side of the bin to quickly empty the grain. Rescuers eventually were able to free Lowis, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

It was his first day working on the farm, Kettelkamp said.

Lowis is at least the fourth person to die in a grain bin accident this year.

Dozens of farmers and farmworkers lose their lives in grain bin accidents every year. Such accidents happen most often on farms, said Jeff Adkisson, a board member on the Grain Handling Safety Council.

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Farms often are not required to adhere to the same Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety regulations that commercial facilities must follow — like wearing a safety harness, turning off equipment while inside the bin and never working alone.

Reporting by Jessie Higgins

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