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Tragedy turned into life lesson

Posted at 7:02 PM, Aug 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-14 20:02:45-04

WILCOX, Neb. — Lee Woollen is a farmer through and through. It's a family affair.

"My great-grandfather homesteaded in 1889 and so I think I'm the fourth generation," he said.

He knows a thing or too about the craft. When he was younger, Lee and his siblings would constantly be helping out on the family farm. Exactly 20 years ago last week, Lee and his siblings were doing their rounds. But this time was different. It's a day Lee will never forget.

"That's where we found him under the corn, was in that area. I didn't check on him I just went to the co-op," he said.

Lee's 15-year-old brother suffocated in one of the family grain bins.

A terrible accident, that happens more frequently than you may think.

"And there's a lot of kids that end up becoming grain bin fatalities also. I grew up in kind of a rural setting so I climbed on the tractors, climbed on the grain bins, I climbed on the hay bells, to me it was just a playground. I didn't realize the dangers," Nick Gangwish, a fire science technology instructor at MCC, said. "So other kids out there, they're going to look at it the same way. Being able to educate your children, it's never too early to start educating them on the dangers of farm operations."

To prevent grain bin accidents experts recommend using a harness while you work and always having someone with you while you work.

"Flowing grain is just like quick sand. Really all it takes is two to three seconds for that grain to start flowing around you before it starts getting difficult to get out of," Gangwish said.

All these years later Lee wants to use his tragedy to prevent future accidents.

"Just to help people slow down and take the extra 30 seconds to check on the person you're working with," he said.

Lee says it would've made his brother Alex very proud.

"Maybe I can help save somebody's life and make a difference," he said.