FALL CREEK — Fall Creek area farmer Norm Anderson calmly tells the story of how he and his wife were trapped in a silo Sunday evening, but he knows it could have been much worse.
“It turned out OK, but I guess there was some danger there, that we might not have made it,” Norm said Monday morning. “Thank goodness she made that 911 call.”
Norm, 69, got stranded about 20 feet below the top of a 60-foot silo about mid-afternoon Sunday as he was pitching silage down a chute that got plugged.
Jane, 62, who was already awake more than 24 hours because of work and projects, realized her husband had not come in for supper and went to the silo to check on him.
Concerned about his welfare, Jane made a 911 call before entering the silo chute to help free Norm at their Sweet Pine Farm, along Highway K east of Eau Claire.
“From what she said, she was 10 to 12 feet up the chute, trying to clear it out and got silage below her,” Norm said. “She was hovered in the middle of the chute with silage above and below her.
“There we were, both of us stuck in different areas,” he said Monday while standing in the milk house while his wife was recovering at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.
“Ya, it could have been pretty serious,” Norm said. “It could have been a lot worse if the silage hadn’t been warm. It had just been put in in early November, so it was still generating some heat.”
Norm said he tugged on an electrical cord that runs through the chute to let Jane know he was still alive, but she said it was causing more silage to rain down on her.
“I had just a little flashlight on my cap and was looking around trying to assess the situation,” he said. “I found a warmer spot in the silo and I just basically sat there and kind of hovered on my knees to try and keep my hands warm, but then I discovered my back was getting kind of cold, so I kind of burrowed in like a mole you could say, and I kind of laid in a fetal position for a while.”
Norm, whose cellphone was in the house being charged, said he didn’t feel much stress about the situation, adding: “I just tried to keep calm.”
Norm said he “may have dozed off” for a short time and had some frost concerns about his left arm that was exposed. Outdoor temperatures were 7 degrees below to 21 degrees below zero Sunday.
Kerry Parker, battalion chief for Township Fire Department, on Monday said emergency officials were dispatched at 8:36 p.m. Sunday, about five hours after Norm had gone to the silo.
“We had phone contact with her, but then lost it,” Parker said Monday, adding that one of the department’s rescue division members lives a short distance away from the Anderson farm.
“He and a (Eau Claire County sheriff’s) deputy got there about the same time and started hunting for the people,” Parker said.
Three silos at the front area of the barn were checked without finding anyone, but they heard Jane tapping on the side of the chute at the fourth one.
“She was kind of digging her way up to him when the silage collapsed and trapped her,” Parker said, adding that the Fall Creek Fire Department also responded to the scene.
“I was aware of everything going on except for maybe a few seconds,” he said. “I’m just glad she noticed I hadn’t come in for supper, that she hadn’t forgotten about me.”
Once the chute was cleared and Jane was removed, Norm was able to climb down the chute.
Jane and Norm both received brief medical examinations inside an ambulance at the scene, Norm said, adding that his wife collapsed after exiting the vehicle.
“Medics with the Eau Claire Fire/Rescue gave them a quick once-over and they declined any needs, so the ambulance was getting turned around to leave when she collapsed,” Parker said.
Jane was hospitalized late Sunday with elevated blood pressure and heart rates and remained in the hospital Monday night.
“She’d been up over 24 hours without any rest when this happened, so I’m sure that added to the stress of it all,” Norm said, noting that Jane worked at a convenience store, made Christmas gifts and assisted with church-related duties as well as farm chores over that time.
The couple had a brief telephone conversation Monday morning, ending with Norm saying, “Love ya.”
“I suppose, when people heard that people had been trapped in a silo and chute for four to five hours that they would think someone would be dead,” Norm said while casually leaning against a milk tank. “It wasn’t time for me to go; I still have way too many chores to do.”
By: Chuck Rupnow
Source: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram