Corn was up to their necks inside a Camden County grain bin. Five workers were performing maintenance on the bin around noon when they fell in.
“You don’t usually see guys survive that, when you walk in and see that amount of corn and you see three men with buried up with another man moving corn away from their mouths so they can breathe,”said Barry Overman, Deputy Chief with the Elizabeth City Fire Department. “That’s not usually a good ending.”
For firefighters, it wasn’t as simple as just pulling them out. They had to tie tubes around the stranded men so they didn’t slip deeper into the corn.
“So the corn falling from the left or the right would not have consumed them,” Overman said.
They couldn’t move around, and worse, they had the pressure of all that corn pounding against their bodies.
“They talked to us the entire time, we put ’em on oxygen when they needed it. We gave them water, but if you can imagine being buried up to your shoulders in corn and not understanding why I can’t just step up,” Overman said.
The firefighters vacuumed up the grain and shoveled it out. Holes were cut on the sides of the bin so more would spill onto the ground.
“There was so many bushels of corn. I’ll never eat corn again,” Overman said.
The corn from the accident was spewed out into a truck.
Four of the five rescued workers, who have been identified as James Frederick, Curtis Lee, Isiah King, and Robert Eason, were taken to Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City to be treated but they were reportedly in good condition.
The fifth worker, Derek Walston, was flown to Norfolk Sentara Hospital with leg injuries.
All are expected to be okay.
State labor officials have opened an investigation into what happened. They’re checking for any violations that may have caused the men to become trapped.
OSHA is also reviewing the farm’s training records, inspecting equipment and interviewing witnesses.
NewsChannel 3 found that George Wood Farms was also inspected in 2010 and cited for “hazard communication.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, that means the company should have a program in place giving employees information about any dangerous chemicals.