EVANSVILLE, Ind., Jan. 24 (UPI) -- After a spike in grain bin deaths this fall and winter, residents of Midwest farming communities are being urged to watch the independent film SILO, which depicts a frantic attempt to rescue a teenager in a bin filled with corn.
Producer Sam Goldberg hopes the movie will scare farmers into taking precautions when they work in their bins.
"A lot of groups are using the film as a community organization tool," Goldberg said. "It's an intense movie. There is a serious mood in the crowd when the film is done. [Farmers] are left emotionally vulnerable to safety lessons."
In Kansas, the state's Farm Bureau showed the movie at an annual gathering and then held safety classes after it ended, Goldberg said.
Some communities use the movie to educate teenage farm workers of the grave risks associated with working in bins. Others show it to fire departments that would respond to such an accident and might need specialized training.
"We needed to see it," said Jessie Norman, a farmer in northern Texas, who hosted a movie screening in October for farmers in her area. "This is something that is really prevalent around here. It happens so often."
More than 50 communities have hosted screenings since the movie was released Oct. 5. During that same time period, at least 11 people died in grain bin accidents. Many of those deaths occurred in circumstances similar to the one depicted in the film.
"I wanted it to bring awareness to our community, and it did," Norman said. "No one could walk away from it saying that couldn't happen to us. [The characters] talked like us, they acted like us and they were in the same situations we're in."
In the movie, farmers try to empty corn from a grain bin, but the corn becomes stuck. This is common problem on a farm because stored grain can clump or stick together in the bin. When that happens, farmers or farmworkers often enter the bin and walk across the grain to break it apart.
This is what the teen character, Cody (Jack DiFalco) did in the movie. But as he moves across the corn, it becomes like quicksand and pulls him under.
That type of grain bin accident happens several times each year in the United States.
Just this month in Indiana, a farmer and his adult son were emptying their corn when a similar accident occurred.
"My understanding is they were having difficulty trying to load the beans," Tyler Guenin, the chief deputy at the Wabash County Sheriff's Office, told UPI after the Jan. 6 accident.
"They didn't feel like they were getting good suction, so he had gone into the bin to see what the problem was. 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."
Despite a frantic rescue attempt that involved dozens of emergency responders and neighboring farmers, the man did not survive after being entrapped.
Farmers who work in or near the bins also can be overcome by toxic gases emitted by decomposing grain or silage, farm safety experts said.
This happened in December at a farm in Minnesota. A father and his 11-year-old son were working atop a silo filled with silage -- which are plants stored in the airtight bins to feed animals during winter -- when they were overcome by fumes. The two later died, along with an uncle who tried to rescue them.
Goldberg, the film's producer, said he hopes the movie will save lives by reminding people of the risks.
"We showed the film right before our guys were going into harvest," said Chris Whipple, who works at crop insurance company Diversified Services in central Indiana. "They were about to be putting their crops in the bin. Accidents can happen. We wanted to remind them to be safe."