Flowing grain causes tragic farm death

It was a Saturday afternoon in October of 2010 and things were routine on the Kerr farm near Cedar Grove in Franklin County. A couple more truckloads and corn harvest would be finished.

Gary Kerr was ready to return to the field. His son, Kyle, was unloading a single-axle semitrailer load of corn. The dump was relatively old and slow. Gary had always told his son to stay out of the trucks, to stay out of flowing grain. Kyle had always obliged.

Key Points

Tragic accident with a load of corn changes a family forever.

Almost everyone underestimates the power of flowing grain.

Stay out of bins, trailers and wagons with augers running, period!


That was the end of a normal afternoon for the Kerrs. What would happen next would not only turn the remainder of that Saturday into turmoil, but would also mar the rest of their lives.

Tragic turn

“We have no idea why he went into the trailer,” Gary comments. “He knew better, and it was something he just didn’t do.”

But for reasons no one on this side of heaven will ever know, he did. Suddenly, someone in the family heard screams. By the time Gary got back to the trailer, he could see his son’s boot coming out of the chute.

A frantic rescue effort was to no avail. Kyle died of suffocation, sucked beneath the load of corn.

Gary can’t retell the story even now without tears in his eyes. He only tells it for one reason.

“We don’t want anybody else to go through this,” he says. “We thought we were doing things right. But something went wrong. You just never know. You’ve got to be careful all the time around grain.”

Unanswered questions

Indeed, Gary still has trouble figuring out how his son was pulled under. There were tarp bows on the semi he could have grabbed onto. He had a cell phone.

Bill Field, Purdue University safety specialist, has made sure many people over the years have had the opportunity to try the tug of war against grain in a display at state and county fairs. It’s innocent — there’s nothing at stake. You simply pull on a rope, simulating if you were stuck in grain. The object is to have enough force to pull yourself out. The grain always wins!

Farm Safety 4 — Just Kids will have a similar display at the 2011 Farm Progress Show near Decatur, Ill., later this month. Field plans to bring a new grain bin safety display. He keeps trying to get the message across — the power of flowing grain, at any velocity, is so forceful it’s difficult to imagine. Within seconds, you’re immobilized. Within a minute you can be submerged. It’s that fast, that deadly.

Before you climb into anything with grain flowing this fall, no matter what, no matter how fast, no matter where, promise you’ll first stop and think of Kyle Kerr, and of his dad, Gary, and his tears. Lord willing, you’ll climb back down the ladder and walk away!

This article published in the August, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.