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Hay bale kills ranch mom

A tragic farm accident is a sobering reminder of the importance of practicing farm safety each and every day.

The pain of today’s blog post weighs heavy on my heart. I recently read a story about a Minnesota farm mom who was fatally pinned by a hay bale.

The 28-year old woman was a daughter, sister, wife and new mother of a three-month old baby, and although I didn’t know her, this story is a tragic reminder for all of us to be safe and cautious each and every day on the ranch.

Details of this horrific accident were recently posted in an Agweek article, which was written by Kim Hyatt.

According to the report, “Katherine Brommenschenkel Vilmo, of Ada, was feeding cattle Friday, Nov. 16, on her family's farm in Hendrum. It was about 9 a.m. when a large hay bale pinned Vilmo against a cattle feeder, according to a sheriff's office report.

“Vilmo's mother, Diane Brommenschenkel, told Sheriff Jeremy Thornton that her daughter was outside doing chores when the mother got a call from her daughter. When Brommenschenkel answered the phone, however, ‘there was nothing there,’ the report stated.

“Brommenschenkel looked outside and didn't see any movement, so she went outside to check, the report said. She told the sheriff that she found her daughter unresponsive, with a hay bale pinning her against the rail of the cattle feeder.

“The mother told the sheriff that she didn't know how to move the hay loader, but managed to use the loader to lift the bale off of her daughter.

“There were apparently no witnesses to the accident, so exactly how Vilmo became pinned is unknown. Brommenschenkel told the sheriff she believed her daughter was cutting twine on the bale and it slid and pinned her.

“The time span between Brommenschenkel receiving the call from her daughter and lifting the bale off of her was about five minutes, Sheriff Thornton told Forum News Service.

“The sheriff's office received a 911 call from Brommenschenkel reporting the accident, the report said. A member of the Halstad rescue squad was the first emergency worker to arrive on scene and started CPR. Thornton arrived shortly before 9:30 a.m. and called for an air ambulance.

“Highway 200 was blocked off so the helicopter could land. Vilmo was breathing on her own when the helicopter took off, the report said. She was flown about 30 miles south to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo.

“Vilmo died Sunday, Nov. 18, from injuries suffered in the accident, according to her obituary.”

As the Christmas season draws near, my heart absolutely breaks for this family as they mourn the loss of Katherine.

Personally, this story brings back other painful memories of some of my own agricultural friends who have lost their lives due to tragic farm accidents.

Lagoons, mixer wagons, augers, livestock, spinning PT0s, heavy machinery or feed, steep hills, pesticides and fertilizers are just a few of the many dangers that lurk on every farm and ranch operation across the country. Combine these elements with inclement weather, stress, fatigue and the wrong split-second decision made, and it’s easy to see why agriculture is the most dangerous career field there is.

According to farm accident research conducted by the National Ag Safety Database (NASD), “Most traumatic injuries occur during interactions with machinery, especially tractors. Injuries also result from poor building design, electric power, livestock handling, and weather conditions. The activities that victims were most often performing when injured are machinery maintenance, fieldwork, and caring for animals.”

The research describes the rates of all types of injuries, illnesses and fatalities that occur in production agriculture including respiratory disease, cancer, pesticide toxicity, dermatitis, musculoskeletal syndromes, noise-induced hearing loss, stress-related mental disorders and risks associated with large machinery and unpredictable livestock.

NASD also provides resources for youth education and ways to take extra precautions on the farm or ranch. Reference these materials by clicking here.

I’ll admit, I absolutely hate writing stories of this kind. I wish tragedies never struck in production agriculture. This loss of life is devastating and cruel.

However, I also feel that even though we may not all personally know the victim of this freak accident, her story serves as a sobering reminder that accidents happen in the blink of an eye.

Please, keep yourself and your loved ones safe this winter by taking extra precautions. The steps may seem tedious or time-consuming, but I promise you, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of farm safety enough.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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