'Lucky & blessed:' Steele County farmhand survives being trapped in grain bin for more than an hour

The farm owner says it's still hard to believe he came out alive after being trapped for so long.

Steele County grain bin
The hole where a farmhand was rescued after being trapped inside the grain bin for 90 minutes.
Matt Henson / WDAY News
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COLGATE, N.D. — A Steele County farm family is praising the dedication, sacrifice and training of local first responders after saving a farmhand who was trapped in a grain bin for more than hour.

They say the farmhand is lucky and blessed.

"It's been tough. Everybody turned out and did what they needed to do. We are very thankful," said farmer Jason Mewes.

It was a tearful thank you from him to those who rushed to his Colgate farm Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, to save one of his farmhands.

"He was in there so long that it's hard to believe that he was ever going to come out of there alive," Mewes said.


A 20-year-old farmhand from South Africa got sucked in by the corn as he tried to break it up as the bin was being emptied.

"Went up on top of the bin and looked down there and couldn't see any sign of him," Mewes explained.

In an effort to get the corn flowing, Mewes grabbed a tractor and rammed the bin to break it open, hitting it so hard it damaged the tractor too.

Hope, North Dakota, volunteer firefighter Aaron Reamer was the first on scene and first to go into the bin.

"He was still talking and breathing and able to communicate with us," Reamer said.

Reamer and the other farmhands who had jumped in to help then worked to secure the trapped farmhand with aluminum grain bin rescue panels.

Firefighters on the outside worked to cut more holes into the bin to slowly drain it.

"The slower you move and the more methodical you are, the more you can feel out exactly whats going on and keep your weight spread out as much as possible," Reamer said.


An hour and a half later the farmhand was freed from the bin.

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"Fantastic feeling to save a life," Reamer said.

The farmhand was rushed to Sanford Health in Fargo where Mewes spent all night and most of the day with him.

"He is in pretty good spirits. He is a little bit sore, he's got some corn in his lungs still that he is coughing up but all in all he is going to make a full recovery," Mewes said.

The Mewes family is eager to bring the farmhand back home, saying he has become a part of their family in the few months he has been there.

"We are just feeling very, very thankful, very, very lucky and blessed that what could have been a tragedy didn't go that way. (It) wasn't his time I guess, and we still get to have him here," Mewes said.

The farmhand is expected to be released from the hospital Friday.

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Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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