Thanks to donations by Dakota Ag Co-op and Wheaton-Dumont Elevators, almost all of the fire departments in Richland County have been provided with grain rescue tubes to extract people if they are consumed in a grain bin.

Now, these departments are learning how to use the equipment.

Dale Eksdahl, inventor of the rescue tubes, and Outstate Data founder of the company that makes them – were in Wyndmere last Tuesday, giving a hands-on training session for the fire department.

“Working in grain can be very dangerous. It works like a boa constrictor. Once it gets around you, every time a victim takes a breath, the grain will move in and take up more space, putting pressure on the victim, which will lead to suffocation. As a rescue worker, you can never give up hope,” said Eksdahl. “Just last year someone survived an accident for a half hour while rescue crews extracted him.

“I came up with this invention out of necessity,” Eksdahl continued.

Elbow Lake, where Outstate Data, LLC is located, dealt with two deaths from grain bin accidents last year. This prompted Eksdahl to try and do something about it.

After a brief explanation of how the tubes work, Eksdahl and the fire department climbed into a loaded grain truck and worked on rescuing volunteers from the corn.

The first volunteer to be extracted, Ronda Luebke, knew all too well the dangers of working in grain. She lost her 14 year-old son in a grain bin accident 17 years ago.

“This really hits home for me. My son’s accident really affected my family, and I am glad I can be here to help so that another family won’t have to go through what we did,” Luebke said.

As she was covered a little above her waist in grain, Eksdahl explained the procedure for extraction to the rescue workers gathered around the grain trailer.

The first tool, an every day broom, is used to poke around in the grain, looking for the appendages of the victim so when the tubes are placed, rescue workers won’t sever any limbs, fingers or toes.

After the situation is assessed, the grain extraction panels are placed around the victim, pounded into grain, and connected together to create a wall to keep the grain from refilling the hole when the victim is dug out.

“I can see how it would be difficult to get out of that,” Luebke said. “I was panicking a little right away, and every move you make puts you deeper in the grain. It wouldn’t take long to be overcome by it.”

“Things went pretty well, it’s a great tool to have and we were able to get all the firefighters rotated in to practice and get hands-on experience with the equipment,” said Wyndmere Fire Chief Chad Wehri after the training.

Since fully developing his invention in the last year, Eksdahl has been hitting the road from Washington to Michigan, selling and training area fire departments on the grain rescue tubes his company makes.

Elbow Lake will soon be home to a one-of-a kind facility that will allow rescue crews to come and practice, and get extensive training with the rescue tubes.

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