A 19 year-old Janesville man was killed Tuesday in a grain bin accident on a farm just outside of town.
Jared Weckwerth was helping an area farmer remove corn from a grain bin and went into the bin to increase the flow of corn when it slowed, according to the Waseca County Sheriff’s Office -- he did not live at the Malterer Farms where he was working.
Others who were helping with the grain removal called 911 when they realized Weckwerth was missing.
According to Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the most common hazard with grain bins is engulfment and primarily caused by moisture and grain removal.
Janesville Police Officer Michael Danberry was on his way back from Farm Safety Day at Farmamerica when he got a call at 12:42 p.m. to respond to an accident on 403rd Ave. in Waseca County.
Danberry was the first to arrive at the scene.
Rescue efforts were made to try and save Weckwerth by cutting holes in the bin to get grain out, but when they located him, it was too late.
At 2:35 p.m. Weckwerth’s body was recovered from the bin. Responders believe he had been inside the bin for nearly two hours.
Emergency responders at the scene estimated the bin was filled with nearly 15 feet of grain.
Janesville, Waseca and New Richland Fire and Rescue teams were dispatched.
Weckwerth graduated in 2011 from Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School where he played on the basketball team.
Zach Roberts was one of the basketball coaches who knew Weckwerth during his senior year.
“He was a great overall kid, very personable.” Roberts said. “He was always friendly to teachers and staff and I remember he was super hard working. He really used his athletic abilities to the best of his ability, and made a good leader.”
Upon graduation, Weckwerth enrolled in the Ag Service Technician program at South Central College in Mankato.
Bruce White, Agribusiness Service Technician Instructor at South Central College, said Jared was “a good kid with a great sense of humor.”
“He was a hard worker and got along with the other guys,” White said. “They all had a lot of fun together.”
Waseca County authorities are considering his death an accident and James Honerman, spokesperson for MNOSHA, said OSHA was notified of Weckwerth’s death and they will be investigating the incident further.
In a release from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in 2010, farming is one of the most dangerous professions.
This harvest season, Mike Schommer at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, reminds farmers and their employees “of the risks that exist when handling grain and to always take precaution.”
The MNOSHA fatality inspection has reported eight fatalities in grain facilities from 2003 to 2011.
MNOSHA has added grain industries to its strategic plan for 2013 and will conduct planned compliance inspections and offer safety and health consultation at grain-handling facilities.
Reach reporter Jennifer Holt at 837-5446, or follow her on Twitter at @WCNjennifer