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Grain bins like quicksand, chief says

Clark County farmer dies after falling into 10,000 bushels of corn.

A Clark County farmer who died in a grain bin accident did not have a safety harness when he fell, something required on commercial operations but not on family farms.

Warren Mumma, 68, and his son were loading corn into a tractor-trailer Tuesday at 4 p.m. when he climbed to the top of the bin without a security harness to install an auger to help move the corn away from the walls while the main auger was still in operation.

Mumma sank to the bottom of the bin filled with nearly 10,000 bushels of corn, officials said.

Bethel Twp. Fire and EMS Chief Jacob King said that, without safety equipment, it would take only seconds to sink to the bottom.

“It engulfs you, so you sink like quicksand. That would be like if you were in a trench collapse,” he said.

Mumma’s body was discovered at the bottom of the bin.

Bill Wilkerson, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration office in Cincinnati, said OSHA officials are aware of the Bethel Twp. accident but only investigate grain bin accidents on commercial farms. OSHA has no jurisdiction on private or family owned farms.

Commercial farms are required to use a safety harness and follow various other safety measures when entering a grain bin, such as ensuring the conveyor is secured and the corn is not flowing when inside the bin, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson said private farmers are encouraged to take precautions when entering grain bins, but they are not required to follow OSHA regulations.

“They can be dangerous, but that’s not to say they can’t be entered safely. Because we do allow them to be entered under certain conditions, but accidents occur when all those issues aren’t addressed,” Wilkerson said.

Neighbors and friends of Mumma, who was a life-long farmer and retired Navistar employee, called the incident a tragic accident.

“It’s a terrible, terrible accident,” said Robbie Rinker, who had known Mumma for 39 years.

Her husband, Bob, added: “It’s just one of those unfortunate things.”

Dozens of grain bin accidents occur nationally each year.

A Purdue University study showed up to 27 grain bin accidents occurred on farms and at commercial grain handling facilities in 2011, down from 2010 when the number of grain bin accidents reached a record high of 51. Tracking began in 1978.

The 47 percent decrease in grain bin accidents comes after a decade in which the number of grain bin entrapments had been on the rise.

The accidents prompted OSHA to issue warning letters to the grain handling industry in 2010 and 2011, following a series of incidents, including the suffocation of 2 teenagers in Illinois grain elevator. OSHA also issued a fact sheet emphasizing the hazards of grain storage bin entry and procedures employers must follow, according to OSHA officials.

Robbie Rinker and her husband, Bob, said no one will know exactly what happened to Mumma at his grain bin.

Mumma is survived by his wife, Connie, and three grown sons. Two of his sons were on the farm when the incident occurred.

“He was a good guy who would do anything for you,” said Bob Rinker, who knew Mumma most of his life.

The Rinkers said Mumma retired from Navistar after about 40 years but had always farmed. Mumma was also described as a hard working and fun-loving man.

“He was just a wonderful person who would do anything for anybody at any moment. He was a lot of fun to be around. We’re going to miss him so much,” Robbie Rinker said.

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