Two police officers and other rescue workers were caught on camera as they fought to save a drowning farmer trapped inside a grain silo.
The incident occurred in Queensland, Australia, when John Lawson, 78, fell into the silo and started sinking rapidly.
Lawson told ABC News that he was emptying grain into a truck that came to pick up a load, when he noticed it clumping up due to the recent rain.
Grain silo unblocking goes wrong
He tried to unblock the grain at the base of the silo, but was unsuccessful, and used a latter to climb up to the top of the silo, which he had done plenty of times during his career as a farmer.
Lawson used an eight foot-long pipe to “poke” at the grain, when that did little to help, he made the mistake of moving towards the center and trying again.
“The whole thing just collapsed because there was an empty void in there from where I’d been digging underneath,” he told the outlet.
Not realizing Lawson had fallen in, the driver filled the truck to the brim with grain. When he turned off the auger, he could hear the farmer screaming for help and called emergency services.
Police respond to grain silo accident
The Baralaba police responded rapidly to the emergency call and immediately began shoveling the grain, desperately trying to prevent it from engulfing the farmer.
For over an hour-and-a-half, officers shielded Lawson from the scorching sun while continuously checking on his comfort and ensuring his ability to breathe.
In the video footage, one of the officers can be seen clearing mounds of grain away from Lawson’s face, allowing him to breathe.
As the area around Lawson’s head was hollowed out, the pressure on his body was alleviated.
Amidst the tense situation, an officer reassured him, saying, “Take a breath, go ahead. We’re good, look at that. We’re winning here mate!”
Grain silo rescue
Throughout the entire ordeal, Sergeant Wylie Steel and Senior Constable Callam Moriarty remained by John’s side, while numerous others worked to free him.
“The main priority was getting him out of the grain and stopping the grain walls from collapsing in at the same time,” said Vaughan Mason, the Queensland Ambulance Service officer in charge.
“Grain is very, very heavy,” he noted. “The more we dug out, the more the grain was collapsing around. There’s a lot of pressure in those tanks.”
At one point, a harness was wrapped around him, and rescue workers attempted to pull him out once his upper body was free.
When this method proved unsuccessful, they decided to cut a hole in the side of the silo to allow the grain to pour out rapidly, but the officers refused to leave Lawson’s side during the second rescue attempt.
Once finally freed, Lawson was placed on a stretcher and transported in an emergency vehicle.
“They did a fantastic job, full credit to them,” Lawson said about his rescue team. “They worked like Trojans to get me out.”
Grain silo rescue efforts rewarded
Their bold actions have earned them the prestigious QBANK Working Together Award at the Queensland Police Everyday Hero awards held in Brisbane last week.
This incredible act of heroism showcased the unity and dedication of both volunteers and career police officers, who came together to make a difference in their community.
Among the 22 nominees for the award, these individuals stood out for their remarkable contributions towards saving a life.
Senior Constable Moriarty said that the award was unexpected yet “incredibly humbling.”
He pointed out that the Lawson’s rescue was a group effort that was contingent on the participation of other community members.
“The local mine shut down, people came down the road in tractors and others shut their businesses that day to come and help us,” he remarked.
Moriarty said that he’s grateful for being part of the small town’s police force. “Just to able to walk down the street and still talk to John and see how he’s doing, that’s what it’s all about.”