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Farm & Outdoors 

Madison family recalls dangers of flowing corn

Chris Jones: Greene Publishing, Inc.

The Farm Safety Agency (FSA) recently posted an article urging farmers to be aware of the dangers of flowing grain and corn. Flowing grain in a storage bin or gravity-fed wagon is like quicksand. It takes less than five seconds for a person caught in flowing grain to be trapped. The mechanical operation of grain handling equipment also presents a real danger.

The dangers of flowing corn were made apparent to a Madison farming family in the Summer of 1978, when Tommy Matheny, Jr. was sucked into his father Thomas' grain wagon. According to Oneida Matheny, Tommy, who was seven-years-old at the time, and his younger brother Stephen were playing just outside the house around sundown, as she was cooking the evening meal. Thomas was filling up grain bins, using augers and a wagon full of corn. Thomas parked the wagon by the bin and hooked up the auger. He opened the access door on the wagon, which allowed the corn to spill out into the auger. After he got everything running, he returned to the access door to make sure everything was flowing like it should. He shined his flashlight at the door and was quickly overtaken with horror as he saw a seven-year-old hand, covered in corn dust, sticking out of the door.

Apparently, upon seeing his daddy drive up on the tractor, Tommy ran to his father to help, and must have climbed onto the grain wagon. When the auger was engaged and the corn started flowing, it sucked him down into it. Thomas frantically switched the auger off, climbed on top of the corn, and tried to pull Tommy up. He pulled so hard trying to save his son's life that it broke Tommy's arm, but the weight of the corn on top of him was too much. Acting fast, Thomas jumped down to the trap door and got the corn flowing again, and Tommy spilled out into his arms. His mouth, throat and lungs were full of corn and he was not breathing. Thomas reached in his son's mouth, scooping handful after handful of corn out of the limp boy's mouth, before performing CPR on him. His actions proved successful, and Tommy started breathing again.

Tommy stayed in the hospital for two weeks, with a broken arm, damaged soft palate, and, as doctors soon discovered, corn still in his lungs. The corn was restricting one of his lungs from filling properly, and he was having trouble breathing. A specialist was called in to perform a bronchoscopy and remove individual pieces of corn from Tommy's lungs. Tommy, now 49-years-old, is alive and well, living in Madison County.

The FSA finished its article by adding that augers, power take-offs, and other moving parts can grab people or clothing. These hazards, along with pinch points and missing shields, are dangerous enough for adults; not to mention children.  It is always advisable to keep children a safe distance from operating farm equipment.  Always use extra caution when backing or maneuvering farm machinery.  Ensure everyone is visibly clear and accounted for before machinery is engaged.

It is common in human nature to think “that will never happen to me,” but as the Matheny family will attest, that can change in an instant.

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