Customer helps rescue farmer stuck hanging upside down inside his silo

West Friendship man, 72, slipped and fell off ladder

February 03, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A 72-year-old Howard County farmer who slipped and was trapped hanging upside down while working inside an 80-foot-high silo was rescued yesterday, thanks to a quick-thinking customer.

Jim Welling, of Welling Farm in the 13000 block of Old Frederick Road in Howard County, "got real lucky," said Tim Jones, a neighbor and fellow farmer who visited the West Friendship farm after hearing about the incident.

According to county fire Lt. Ryan Miller, Welling was on a ladder about 10:30 a.m. trying to repair a grain chute near the top of the silo when he slipped and fell.

A man who wanted to buy hay at the farm discovered Welling after finding his idling, untended tractor at the silo's base and hearing the victim's cries for help.

The man, who was not identified by authorities, called for help and climbed a ladder, supporting Welling until the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department arrived. Welling was stuck for about 45 minutes.

Lt. Dale Becker, a county firefighter stationed at West Friendship who participated in the rescue, said Welling had been on a ladder, working near an access panel for a grain chute, when he lost his footing and he found himself upside down, dangling from a metal safety cage that surrounds the ladder's top.

Becker said the firefighters put a belt around the farmer's waist, threaded it out of the silo to a ladder tower truck, and hoisted him upright. They then lowered him to the ground. He remained conscious throughout, Becker said.

Welling was taken by ambulance to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Miller said. He was in fair condition last night.

Jones said the silo is used to store feed for the farm's cattle and is automated, but he speculated that Welling climbed to an access panel to free something stuck in the chute.

Another neighbor, farmer and County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, 73, a western county Republican, said he wasn't surprised to hear that Welling was doing such difficult labor at 72.

"We old farmers never stop," he said.

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