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Indiana farmer dies in grain bin despite frantic rescue attempt

By
Jessie Higgins
Neighbors gather at this Urbana, Ind., farm Tuesday to clear away soybeans spilled during the attempted rescue of Daniel Haupert, who became trapped in the bin while trying to empty it. Photo courtesy of Steven Olsen
Neighbors gather at this Urbana, Ind., farm Tuesday to clear away soybeans spilled during the attempted rescue of Daniel Haupert, who became trapped in the bin while trying to empty it. Photo courtesy of Steven Olsen

EVANSVILLE, Ind., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Despite a frantic rescue attempt, an Indiana farmer died this week after being smothered in a bin of soybeans, bringing the total number of similar U.S. deaths to at least 19 since August.

Just minutes after Daniel Haupert's family realized he had been sucked into the beans at his family farm near Urbana, dozens of neighbors and first responders rushed at the scene, trying to help save him.

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"When I pulled up, they were about a half-hour into the rescue," said Larry Wade, the pastor of Urbana Yoke Parish, which Haupert and his family attended. "By the time I got there, it was like a town hall meeting in our community."

Haupert, 66, was emptying the bin with his son Monday when the beans became stuck.

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"My understanding is they were having difficulty trying to load the beans," said Tyler Guenin, the chief deputy at the Wabash County Sheriff's Office, who was on the scene.

"They didn't feel like they were getting good suction, so he had gone into the bin to see what the problem was," Guenin said. "At some point, his son realized he hadn't seen his dad recently, so he went to the top of the bin to look and he didn't see him."

Haupert's son immediately called for help. Several fire departments and police officers arrived, and rescuers cut large holes at the bottom of the bin to quickly empty it.

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"Neighboring farmers showed up with shovels," Guenin said. "They were just pulling the beans out as fast as they could."

It took just under an hour to free Haupert, but he already was dead. His funeral is scheduled for Saturday.

"He was such a great man," a family friend wrote in the funeral home's guestbook. "I will always remember him with that smile on his face. He was one of the kindest people I've known."

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Haupert was a third-generation farmer, and farming was his passion. According to his obituary, he attended Vincennes University, in Vincennes, Ind. He and his wife, Roxanne, were married in 1974.

Haupert was devoted to his family. "He adored his grandkids," pastor Wade said. "He attended all their events."

On the day after the accident, dozens of neighboring farmers showed up at the Haupert farm with shovels and trailers to clear away to soybeans spilled during the rescue attempt.

"There were probably 30 men out there shoveling grain up," Wade said. "Everybody wanted to do something to help. It's just what they could do for a friend."

Dozens of people die in grain bin accidents every year. Most of those accidents occur on farms, rather than commercial train storage facilities.

Farms with fewer than 10 employees, excluding family members, are not required to follow U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's safety regulations.

"You hear stories of them just hopping in the bin and walking around to break it up," said Matt Trexel, the fire chief at Burlington Fire Department in Iowa, which responded to a grain bin entrapment in 2018. The man survived.

"It seems terrifying," Trexel told UPI in December. "We always go in with ropes and harnesses on, securing us in. But, I guess you get away with it 99 times, and you think you'll be fine."

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