A Gothenburg man spent nearly four hours Wednesday up to his neck in soybeans inside a grain bin at the All Points Coop. Rick Frickenstein, 42, a worker at the grain elevator, was nearly buried, officials told the Bulletin.
Fortunately Frickenstein's feet were on the bin floor, but rescuers kept beans against the bin walls from falling in on him and then got him out.
Frickenstein was reported to be stuck around 9:30 a.m. He walked away around 1:30 p.m., after volunteers fire fighters successfully engineered his rescue.
The beans were being augured out of the 110-foot tall bin into a railroad car when it happened. The bin was 15-20 percent full, Troy Franzen, the second-assistant Gothenburg fire chief, told the Bulletin.
After Frickenstein was discovered mired in the grain, as many as five volunteer rescuers went inside, harnessed to ropes above - their escape route if the beans would collapse, Franzen told the Bulletin.
The beans sloped steeply into an inverted cone. From the center of the cone in the middle of the bin the beans sloped 15-20 feet higher on all sides. Frickenstein was caught near the middle.
Once volunteers got in, they put sheets of plastic in the beans, forming a "shoring" circle around Franzen to wall off the grain and keep more from falling on him. They used plastic especially made for that purpose, Franzen said.
Using five-gallon buckets, the rescuers moved the beans around to lessen the danger and get the rings in place. Then they made another, wider, ring. More materials were needed, so rescuers cut sheets of plywood into strips and lowered them into the bin to make the second protective ring.
Once Frickenstein was protected, the rescuers slowly vacuumed the beans out until Frickenstein wiggled free. He slid out of the bin through a side door.
The rescue was tedious and anxious, Franzen said.
“You don’t want to rush,” he said. “One mistake can be devastating.”
Franzen wasn't sure how Frickenstein came to be trapped. He said the auger opening in the bottom of the bin was said to have been plugged, so maybe Frickenstein was trying to open it, but he was too busy helping coordinate the rescue to find out for sure.
“We haven’t had very many grain bin rescues, but we do a lot of training in it, since we are an agricultural community,” he said. “We had the equipment and everything worked successfully.”
Frickenstein is an 8-year employee of the co-op.