Man rescued from top of grain elevator in Hays
(Photo: Hays Post)
HAYS, Kan. (KAKE) - The Hays Police Department, with the help of several emergency services personnel, rescued a man from the top of a grain elevator on Friday.
At approximately 4:20 p.m., the Hays Police Department received a call about a man at the top of a grain elevator. Officers responded and set up a perimeter that blocked off streets close to the elevator. Attempts to get the man to come down were made over the police loudspeaker while firefighters and emergency medical services were dispatched to the area.
The man was pacing back and forth and yelling on top of the elevator but it was hard to hear what he was saying. He threw debris from where he was standing, including a hammer and other debris.
Employees from the Midland Marketing grain elevator helped police with making entry into the elevator. They provided sealed flashlights to officers, which helped reduce the risk of flash explosion with the grain dust inside. Officers slowly made their way to the top using a one-person elevator and climbing slick ladders in the building. Once they were close to the top, they attempted to negotiate with the person at the top. While the man came close to the edge of the elevator and said some things to the negotiator, his comments were hard to make out. He then left the edge of the elevator and never again re-established contact with the negotiator.
A drone flown by Rooks County Deputy James Balthazor, who also is an associate professor at Fort Hays State University, helped officers on the ground see what the man was doing. Information was relayed to the Hays Police personnel and one Ellis County Sheriff’s Deputy inside the grain elevator. Attempts to communicate via the drone were waved off and then ignored by the man. Officers inside the grain elevator could hear the man banging and digging away at the top of the roof as he ignored the attempts of the negotiator who was trying to regain communication.
Once the man started smoking on top of the grain dust-filled elevator officers started retreating to exit the potential explosive hazard and regroup. As one negotiator started descending inside the one-man elevator, officers had observed the man through a window crawl along the edge. Once he was on the south side of the top of the elevator, he slung himself over the edge and dropped himself down about 20 – 25 feet to the next level. His actions were also observed on the ground via the drone and binoculars.
The man sustained serious injuries when he fell to the next level. He was on his back and told officers that he could not move. The drone was deployed at the time and responders on the ground at the command post had seen his fall and began working up a rescue plan. At this point fire fighters and emergency medical technicians entered the grain elevator to start working the rescue.
Over the next several hours responders worked to secure the man, lift him up through a window into the grain elevator, lower him down to the next floor and carry him to a small three-foot by three-foot elevator shaft where a fire fighter was attached to the man, and they were lowered to the bottom of the grain elevator inside together. Several emergency responders had to rig up pulleys, ropes, and safety lines to move the man to safety. The conditions were dark, slick from dust on the floors, dust in the air, cramped quarters, and they had to watch where they stepped so they didn’t fall through the numerous holes in the floor. Some holes were covered with lids that would not support the responders' body weight and were a hazard that they had to work around.
Hays firefighters along with firefighters from Goodland, Kansas set up the rigging and eventually got the man to the ground safely. The man was eventually taken to the Hays Medical Center for medical treatment.
Kansas Highway Patrol, the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, the Ellis County Emergency Services personnel (EMTs/paramedics), the Goodland Fire Fighters, Rooks County Deputy James Balthazor for his drone work, the grain elevator employees for their advice and assistance, and to the Hays Fire Fighters and Police Personnel helped with the rescue.